I understand that Boris Johnson has been cleared by the investigation into allegations that he breached the code of conduct by disclosing confidential information about the arrest of Shadow Minister Damian Green MP. Len Duvall, Labour leader on the Greater London Authority reported Mayor Boris to the Metropolitan Police Authority standards committee.
After yesterday’s news that former Conservative Chairman Caroline Spelman was cleared of any intent to breach Parliamentary rules, this illustrates the sometimes malicious way that complaints to standards committees can be used.
I hear that Boris may be advised to be more careful by the report but that the substantive complaint has not been upheld. Similarly, Caroline Spelman was found to have “inadvertently” breached what the House of Commons Standards Committee admitted were somewhat grey areas in the rules. She will therefore repay around £9,600 to the public purse after referring herself to the Commons Standards Commissioner.
UPDATE: Sky News has confirmed what my source told me.
There has been some debate on this blog and on other Reading blogs recently about the identity of the poster who calls himself “Oranjepan”. “Oranjepan” has a somewhat confrontational style and appears to be very closely connected to the Reading Lib Dem Group on the Council. A number of posters on here and elsewhere have recently referred to “Oranjepan” as “Gareth” implying that he is the Reading Borough Lib Dem Group Leader Cllr Gareth Epps, something that “Oranjepan” has failed to rebut until he responded today that he is not a “local politician”.
I was therefore somewhat surprised to receive the following threatening email today from the said Cllr Gareth Epps (I reprint unedited):
“Dear Cllr Willis,
At the recent Credit Crunch summit I told you that I was not the author of the ‘Oranjepan’ blog that commenced publishing in January or thereabouts, and described who was, after you decided to insinuate that it was me.
I am writing after you have repeated your smear in postings in recent days.
I do not take lightly your continued attempts to defame me as a fellow Councillor and Group Leader by falsely alleging that I post anonymously on a blog. I only contribute to one blog – Katesgrove Liberal Democrats – and I do so under my own name.
I regard your continued smears as a deliberate attempt at a slight on my character; and although I would expect this behaviour of your former employer Mr Wilson, you as a councillor are subject to the Local Government Code of Conduct and clearly in breach of it on this occasion. I expect a retraction and apology on your website by the weekend or I will be tabling a formal complaint against you. If you publish this email I will also table a formal complaint.
Given the seriousness of your behaviour I am copying this message to your Group Leader and the Monitoring Officer.
Liberal Democrat councillor for Katesgrove ward”
I am not someone that takes threats lightly and have therefore sent the following response and decided to publish both:
I am surprised that you consider associating you with an avowedly Lib Dem blog as “Reading List” and its author “Oranjepan”, a smear.
A number of commentators on a variety of blogs have implied that you are Oranjepan but as you have now put it in writing that you are not the said “Oranjepan” I am happy to accept your word. It does no credit to local politicians to engage in a tit for tat of complaints but you might like to reflect on the fact that there are a number of statements and assertions on Lib Dem Cllrs’ blogs and websites that could equally be the subject of complaint. I don’t think any of us have anything to gain by going down that route!
Incidentally it was the same Cllr Epps who made a number of false allegations against me when I stood for election in Peppard Ward in 2007. He then claimed that I maintained “a home in Surrey” – UNTRUE; that I had “only just moved into Reading” one month before the election – UNTRUE. He also implied that I was being dishonest with the electorate – UNTRUE.
It would seem that Cllr Epps has swallowed the Lib Dem campaign book “Effective Opposition” produced by the Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors. It instructs Lib Dem activists to “Be wicked, act shamelessly, stir endlessly.” It goes on, “Don’t be afraid to exaggerate……Positive campaigning will not be enough to win control of the Council”.
Should Cllr Epps decide to lodge a formal complaint about me or my blog it will naturally be considered by the Council’s Standards Committee if they deem there is a case to answer and I would be very happy to abide by their findings. However, Cllr Epps may first wish to consider the impact of such complaints on his Group if the Conservative Group decided to follow his lead.
In politics we all take quite a bit of rough with the smooth; that goes with the territory.
The Conservatives have for many years been struggling north of the border in Scotland. Whilst in the national polls they have been riding high for about a year now, in Scotland they have often been fighting it out with the Lib Dems for the honour of third or fourth place.
In 1997 the Party was wiped out in Westminster terms, returning no MPs in Scotland or Wales. Even with a slight national recovery in the last election Conservatives still only managed one MP in Scotland. But is this all about to change?
David Cameron (with the Scottish name) is proving more popular in Scotland and opinion polls have been suggesting a slight upturn in Scottish Conservative fortunes for a few months. A cautionary note should be sounded at this point that not every pollster breaks down their regional samples into neat enough subsets to show Scotland alone and for those that do we are often talking about very small samples. However, the last Communicate Research poll was an illustration of the encouraging news. Its Scottish party ratings were as follows (with change on 2005 General Election):
Scottish National 29% (up 11%)
Conservative 22% (up 6%)
Labour 25% (down 14%)
Lib Dem 16% (down 7%)
If these changes are put into Martin Baxter’s “Electoral Calculus” Scottish election predictor, it would give the following seat numbers:
Scottish National 15 (up 9)
Conservative 9 (up 8 )
Labour 25 (down 16)
Lib Dem 10 (down 1)
Included in the Conservative gains would be Chancellor, Alastair Darling’s Edinburgh South West seat. The Conservatives would be almost back to the 11 Scottish seats that they won in 1992 when they last won a General Election.
I stress that this is “just a bit of fun”, based on the tiny subset of just one poll but in reality the Conservatives in Scotland have a track record of slightly outperforming their opinion poll share. It is a reflection of just how badly Labour are doing currently that such a scenario is even conceivable. It is also a reflection on the effective leadership of the Conservative Leader in the Scottish Parliament, Annabel Goldie. She has been shrewd in charting a credible course for a party that some had written off north of the border.
Let’s see a few more Scottish polls before we Conservatives get too excited but the omens are now looking quite good for the first time in many years.