Nearly two hours back, after a previous and pointed trailer on the regular e-mail prospectus for Newsnight, the BBC web-site posted Michael Crick’s up-date on the Spelman affair, a.k.a. “Nannygate”.
Those ever-present scourges of all Socialist evil have so far reacted accordingly:
Politicshome got it, merely by posting a link to the BBC site.
By their deeds shall we know them.
Crick’s update helps us in all kinds of ways:
The original complaint arrived circuitously to the Tory Chief Whip from Spelman’s (real) Parliamentary secretary:
Mrs Spelman was “shopped” by her secretary Sally Hammond, who complained to the Conservative Party leadership that she was using Parliamentary allowances to pay her nanny.
Mrs Hammond could not understand why the MP had so little money available for office expenditure.
That complaint went, first, to Peter Ainsworth:
then, as now, a member of the Conservative shadow cabinet, and for whom Mrs Hammond had once worked.
He referred the case to the then chief whip, James Arbuthnot, who was worried by what he was told, and told Mrs Spelman to stop paying her nanny from Parliamentary money at once.
In other words, Spelman was told quite rightly, and apparently quite forcefully:
to stop paying her nanny via this method.
Then we have:
shadow security minister Baroness Neville-Jones [who] said [to BBC1 Question Time] she was “quite certain that Caroline has made it very clear that if she has contravened the rules, that she will do the right thing”.
The money paid to Ms Spelman’s nanny was “quite a small amount”, the peer told BBC One’s Question Time.
Another of Mrs Spelman’s previous Westminster secretaries was also unhappy that the nanny was being paid from public funds – which amounted to about £14,000 a year … or more than £25,000 over 22 months.
Twenty-five grand. “Quite a small amount”. Hmmm.
We also have what seems to be a blatant Spelman fib: that the Nannygate business was a fill-in while more suitable office arrangements were established.
This is the defensive line peddled assiduously by Spelman’s Tory apologists. They even have the gall to imply critics are nasty anti-feminist and oppressive misogynists. Here’s Iain Dale in full aggrieved hurt-mode:
The baying mob is once again in evidence. Its victim this time is Caroline Spelman. A more unlikely candidate for condemnation is difficult to think of. No one seriously believes Caroline Spelman is – or ever was – on the make.
… There was no constituency office. There was no secretary to deal with it. As a new MP she didn’t have an office until a couple of months after the election. So she did the best she could. But she was drowning. That’s not to plead sympathy for her, it is a statement of fact.
The Nanny in question, Ms Haynes, in a clearly doctored statement, said:
“During the period of 1997 to 1998, I had two roles; one helping Mrs Spelman with childcare and another providing secretarial help to her as an MP.”
Ahem! Except again:
The Nanny was employed in Kent. Spelman’s Parliamentary secretary was in Westminster, somewhat closer to Meriden, Spelman’s constituency, and (surely the smoking gun):
Mrs Spelman’s claim that there was no other constituency office was challenged, since documentation shows that her current constituency office over the border in Solihull has always been listed as her office in official directories.
Separately, Janet Parry told Newsnight that when she did a stint of work experience over the summer of 1997, administration work was already being handled by the Solihull office at 2 Manor Road in Solihull.
As of this posting, Spelman remains MP for Meriden and Chairman of the Conservative Party. Her web-page “is the responsibility of Caroline Spelman MP and is funded from the Incidental Expenses Provision”. The “Latest news” thereon seems to have been up-dated as recently as 29th February 2008.
The “Incidental Expenses Provision” is another of those little “extras” MPs require to serve us:
The Incidental Expenses Provision (IEP) can be used to meet the cost of: accommodation for office or surgery use; equipment and supplies for office or surgery; work commissioned or other services; and certain travel and communications.
In 2006/07 the maximum an MP could claim on IEP was £20,440 . In addition, that year, it cost Spelman £20,871 to run her Parliamentary office, plus £86,628 in staffing costs.
Moreover, according to They Work for You, Spelman has claimed for “Centrally Provided Computer Equipment” a total of £8,950 in the last six sessions.
In exchange, Spelman has:
- spoken in debate just the once in the last session, “well below average amongst MPs“;
- has asked 13 written questions “below average amongst MPs“, and
- has voted 54% of the time, “well below average amongst MPs“.
Spelman is, as she proudly says, “an Essex girl” and
she is against a scrutiny and inspection policy (at least for local government) because: “These now cost over a billion pounds a year and I can think of a billion ways to give taxpayers better value for money“.