Tory donor’s money comes from apartment block with “100 women available in a single night”

What to say … £290,000 to Tory Party, calls himself “astronomically wealthy”, women from Romania, human trafficking… no suggestion, of course that he knew anything about it, just the landlord … just another day for another Tory donor.

Brexit: Parish ‘ready to shoot May down’ according to Sunday Telegraph; Swire still on fence

Parish unhappy with Brexit deal and will vote it, and May, down according to Sunday Telegraph today:

Swire firmly on his usual fence – no update since this post on his website:

presumably waiting to see which of his Eton pals is going to offer him a nice job. Though perhaps not the Middle East (his usual choice).

Ambassador to the Maldives, perhaps?

“Concern grows at Tory link to US lobby firm in Facebook smear scandal”

“The Conservative party is under pressure to reveal details about its relationship with the London arm of a US lobbying firm accused of smear tactics against critics of Facebook.

UK Policy Group, a consultancy with close links to the Conservative party, is part of Definers Public Affairs, the controversial firm ditched by Facebook earlier this month following a New York Times exposé that has further dented the social media network’s image. …

Set up in 2017, UKPG’s vice president is Andrew Goodfellow, the Tories’ former director of policy and research. Its two founders, Matt Rhoades and Joe Pounder, are heavyweight US political operatives who – in addition to establishing Definers – set up the America Rising corporation, described as the “unofficial research arm of the Republican party”.

“Our blueprint to winning elections involves the relentless pursuit of original and effective hits against Democrats,” the firm explains on its website.

UKPG’s only known client is the Conservative party, for which it reportedly provides research on its opponents. A spokeswoman for the Conservative party confirmed it works with UKPG.

When asked whether it intended to continue working with the firm in light of recent allegations and what the firm did for the party, she said: “We don’t comment on contracts with individual suppliers.”

Jon Trickett, Labour’s shadow minister for the cabinet office, said: “It’s precisely because of revelations like this that the public have no faith in this government to clean up our democracy and restore trust in politics.” …

“This isn’t any old muckraking outfit,” said Tamasin Cave of Spinwatch, a group that monitors PR agencies. “Was UK Policy Group an ‘unofficial research arm’ of the Conservative party? A pro-Brexit operation? We need to know why they arrived in the UK when they did, what they were doing for nearly 18 months, who they were targeting and who was paying for it. And why they appear to have upped sticks the very week Definers are fired by Facebook.”

More than 6,000 homes empty, one-third for more than six months

More than 600,000 homes across England are currently vacant, with a third empty for six months or more, government figures show.

Official figures obtained by Attic Self Storage revealed the number of vacant properties has increased over the last few years to a 605,891 high. At the same time, homelessness has also increased with the latest government figures showing more than 4,700 people are sleeping rough on any given night in England. …”

“Giveaway budget leaves low-paid women worse off”

“Millions of women in low-paid, part-time work will be among the main losers from tax and benefit changes that will come into effect in April, despite repeated government promises to help them, a new study of the chancellor’s recent budget has shown.

Analysis of the latest changes, carried out by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), has also found that income for the top 10% of households will increase by £1bn more than for the bottom 10%, widening the overall earnings gap between the richest and poorest.

Philip Hammond used his third budget to bring forward by a year a Conservative manifesto pledge to increase the tax-free personal allowance to £12,500 and raise the higher-rate tax threshold to £50,000.

Last week the women and equalities minister, Penny Mordaunt, said the government was committed to helping low-paid women. “We need to broaden out our work beyond the FTSE 350, beyond London, beyond women executives and big business,” she said. “We need to focus on small business, part-time work, women from all parts of the UK, low-paid women, women with multiple barriers to meeting their full potential.”

But the IPPR study, released to the Observer, shows that the vast majority (73%) of those who will fare worst from the budget changes – missing out on tax cuts because they earn too little to profit from the rise in allowance, and suffering reductions in real incomes as a result of the benefits freeze – will be women.

Many of these are part-time workers, a section of the workforce where median pay is £10,000 a year, and so below the new personal tax threshold of £12,500. …”