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Saturday 5 March 2016

Simon Danczuk - You’re Nicked

The campaign by Rochdale’s nominally Labour MP Simon Danczuk to wave away the taint of dodgy expense dealings has been progressing not necessarily to his advantage, as news emerges that he had his House of Commons credit card suspended pending the payment of a £595 bill, followed swiftly by the Metropolitan Police agreeing to begin an investigation into potentially fraudulent accommodation claims.
The appearance on the scene of the Met may have taken Danczuk by surprise: after all, the complaint against him, that he claimed expenses for his two eldest children, neither of whom has stayed with him in London for some years now, and even then only on a very occasional basis (according to first wife Sonia Rossington), had been taken up not by the Police, but Parliamentary watchdog IPSA.

Indeed, it was IPSA that took the complaint forward, rather than Greater Manchester Police (GMP), who were urged to take action but passed on it. And Zelo Street has been made aware that IPSA told complainant Dave Hennigan they expected to publish their findings “within the next month”. Danczuk may have thought that he had a few weeks to get his excuses in. But it was not to be.

Hennigan, one of the Lib Dems’ Rochdale stalwarts, is clearly not a man of infinite patience, and he may have perceived that IPSA might drag their feet. In any case, he also took his complaint direct to the Met, from where DI Howard Holt has replied “Following on from your letter, dated 25 January 2016 I can confirm that my team are in the process of assessing the allegations that you make”. Do go on.
They are in contact with the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority and we will then conduct our own enquiries to determine whether any criminal offences have been committed … Officers from my team will be in contact with you in the near future”. DI Holt’s status is that his team has “the responsibility for assessing allegations of crime relating to matter of fraud and misconduct by those in a public office”.

The Manchester Evening News has notedIpsa is yet to report back on its own findings, although it is understood the regulator has interviewed Mr Danczuk’s ex-wife Sonia Rossington”. Danczuk is once again falling back on his claim that IPSA’s wordings are vague: “My accommodation claims were made in accordance with what I believed to be an honest interpretation of the IPSA rules, which are loosely worded and ambiguous”.

And once again he has gone on record to say “I have of course offered to refund the amount in full”. That might be a significantly sized repayment: as Rochdale Lib Dem Andy Kelly has pointed out, “These are extremely serious allegations involving tens of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ cash”. Yes, potentially tens of thousands plural.

Meanwhile, the Labour Party has not yet moved to discipline Danczuk, beyond his recent suspension. Why would they do that? Simples. Forget talk of Corbynite purges, Danczuk is going to be treated as fairly as the party can manage. There will be no move that suggests any haste, partiality or prejudice. If Labour sack Danczuk, he will be out Full Stop.

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