Thursday, June 26, 2008

Tory MPs call for Spelman to be sacked amid new revelations

Michael Portillo (cue: Knives in back) has called for Caroline Spelman to be sacked as Tory chairman, according to be BBC News 24 (or is it called something else these days?).

Michael Crick says that "a number of Conservative MPs" have approached the 1922 committee with similar requests. (That could mean two MPs, by the way).

Newsnight has now reported further revelations based around Sally Hammond, who, as Spelman's secretary, "shopped" her to the Chief Whip in 1999 about secretarial expenses:

Mrs Hammond could not understand why the MP had so little money available for office expenditure. She was shocked to find that much of the annual Commons allowance was being paid to Mrs Spelman's nanny, Tina Haynes.

As far as she knew, Ms Haynes did little or no secretarial work to justify this.

Mrs Hammond took her complaint to Peter Ainsworth - then, as now, a member of the Conservative shadow cabinet, and for whom Mrs Hammond had once worked.

Sally Hammond is the wife of Tory front-bencher Stephen Hammond which makes this even more embarrassing for Cameron.

Spelman and Conservative Central Office's account of where her (Spelman's) constituency office was in the late 1990s has also started to unravel:

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.

The Telegraph today headline this story: Caroline Spelman: 'Nannygate' scandal threatens Conservative rift

What I find extraordinary is the defence, laid out by Pauline Neville-Jones on Question Time last night that the money involved is "quite a small amount". You'd think that Conservative politicians would have a little alarm going off in their head when their mouths start forming those sorts of words. "Reality warning" ought to be the message from the brain.

£25,000. A Tory front-bencher calls this "quite a small amount".

Perhaps as well as the price of milk, petrol, bread etc, future Tory spokespeople ought to have something else written down in front of them when they speak publicly. I would suggest:

"£25,000 = a ****ing huge amount of money = winning the lottery for most people"

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