With the General Election just over a month and a half away, those who have claimed to be impartial or disinterested, while in reality wanting to see the Tories win, are letting the mask slip, and there is no finer example of mask slippage on offer than the recent act of Remembrance shaming carried out by the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog on Labour MP Sarah Champion.
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Ms Champion won the Rotherham by-election in difficult circumstances: Labour got a significant part of the blame for child sexual exploitation (CSE) in the town, the outgoing MP Denis MacShane had been convicted of expenses fraud, for which he served time in Belmarsh and Brixton jails, and UKIP mounted a spirited challenge. She has become a popular MP, and this the Fawkes folks cannot allow to go unchallenged.
And so it came to pass that the Fawkes blog told readers “Labour MP Sarah Champion is today paying back the £17 she claimed on expenses for a Remembrance Sunday poppy wreath. Apart from a short statement confirming she would reimburse the taxpayer, Champion has maintained radio silence in the face of searing public criticism”. There was a typically sneering headline, “People’s Champion? No Sorry From Sarah”.
But The Great Guido is tough on all politicians who claim such items on expenses, surely? After all, the spirit of the original Guy Fawkes, and all that - behaviour that is not up to scratch is just that, regardless of party, isn’t it? Ah well. As Tom Pride has demonstrated, that appears not to be the case: claiming for Remembrance items enjoys cross-party support, just not the attention of the Fawkes rabble.
As Tom notes, “Tory MP for Dudley South, Chris Kelly, claimed £10.80 for travel expenses to turn up to Remembrance Sunday last year. The scandalous expenses claim, which was published by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, was made in 2014”. And who rumbled Kelly? “Interestingly, this information about Kelly was dug up by UKIP’s candidate for Dudley South, Paul Brothwood”.
The difference between the Fawkes folks and this UKIP candidate is that he has slammed both Kelly and Ms Champion, as befits a genuine Parliamentary outsider. Brothwood said “After the expenses scandal you would have thought our politicians would have learnt their lesson but sadly it appears there are still those who see pound signs before the public duty. I have written a letter to request that Mr Kelly pays this money back”.
Quite so. So perhaps the Fawkes rabble will show that they are equally hostile to all instances of Remembrance expense claiming and join the call for Kelly to pay back that £10.80. But then, as Paul Staines is on record saying he prefers to see “The Blue Team” in power, maybe not. As the Guardian noted at the time, “Tories get a strikingly easier ride on [Staines’] blog than other politicians”. It was ever thus.
Even to the extent of selective Remembrance expense shaming. Another fine mess.
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