Access capitalism whistleblower tried to recruit No 10 aides [and Hugo Swire]

 “The Conservative Party is the party of aspiration and opportunity for all, no matter your gender, your ethnicity or where you come from.” – Great quote, Owl.

Eleni Courea, Henry Zeffman, Gabriel Pogrund 

Two of Boris Johnson’s closest advisers were being lined up for leadership roles in the Middle East outreach group at the heart of a dispute that has shaken Tory high command, The Times can disclose.

Lord Udny-Lister, the prime minister’s former chief of staff, and Baroness Finn, his present deputy chief of staff, were in talks to take senior roles with Conservative Friends of the Middle East and North Africa (Comena).

Comena is being set up by Mohamed Amersi, a telecoms millionaire and Conservative donor who made incendiary claims at the weekend about Ben Elliot, the party chairman. The group has applied for formal affiliation to the party and is being formed to develop its links to Middle Eastern countries.

Amersi’s close links to such senior Conservatives will make it harder for the party to distance itself from him after his assertion that Elliot had fostered a culture of “access capitalism” at the heart of the establishment.

Udny-Lister, who served as the prime minister’s special envoy to the Gulf before he left government in April, was to become one of Comena’s vice-chairmen, according to documents seen by this newspaper. He said he had agreed to be involved but did not recall agreeing specifically to accept a vice-chairman role.

Finn was approached about taking a role before she joined No 10 but the discussions never led to formal agreement and she never reached the stage of seeking permission from Downing Street. A friend said: “Simone was approached to join the advisory council but this was not progressed.”

Theresa May was to be a patron. A spokeswoman for the former prime minister confirmed that she had agreed to this but added that she was no longer involved with the organisation.

According to documents seen by The Times, other Tory politicians who were being lined up for leadership positions included Lord Johnson of Marylebone, the prime minister’s brother, Sir Hugo Swire, the former Tory minister, the MP Mark Garnier and Lord Lamont of Lerwick, the former chancellor.

Amersi’s list of supporters was subject to Comena becoming affiliated to the party and the parliamentarians declaring their interests in the Commons and Lords registers.

Garnier said he had agreed to be vice-chairman of the group “subject to Comena achieving affiliate status with the party and then moving forward into a properly structured organisation”. Lamont said he had agreed to be a vice-president about six months ago but that progress had stalled. Neither Johnson nor Swire responded to requests for comment.

At the weekend Amersi claimed that Elliot benefited from giving wealthy clients of his company access to the Prince of Wales. Amersi said Elliot had introduced him to Prince Charles in 2013 after he paid thousands of pounds for elite membership of the Tory chairman’s concierge company, Quintessentially. A spokesman for Elliot said the introduction was “entirely about helping to raise money for charity”.

Amersi told The Daily Telegraph last night: “I highly regret that Prince Charles has been involved in this.” He became a leading figure in several of Charles’s charities, including Prince’s Trust International.

Last night Amersi also claimed that he would have been treated better by the Conservatives if he had was white. He told The Daily Mail: “I sometimes wonder if I was white and my surname was John Smith and I had been to Eton and Oxford I might have been treated differently. And I think there is some truth in that.”

A party spokesman said: “The Conservative Party is the party of aspiration and opportunity for all, no matter your gender, your ethnicity or where you come from.”

Comena was to rival the Conservative Middle East Council, which is led by Charlotte Leslie, the former MP for Bristol North West, but severed its formal ties to the party in 2019.

The Glorious Twelfth: A Bird’s-Eye View

From Mike Temple (upgraded from comment to full post)

I’m a Red Grouse, a High-Class Bird,
Of all Game-Birds the one preferred
By gentry, lords and the top brass,
All members of the ruling class.

I’m courted by the richest in the land
Who make damn sure Grouse-Shooting isn’t banned.
I live amongst the purple moorland heather
Where noble folk and I can come together.

Yes, I’m well-bred, a highly favoured Grouse,
Like Eton Boys and chaps from Charterhouse,
For that is where all those chaps born to rule
Are sent away from home to public school.

It’s there they learn to tell a clever lie,
Their feelings only for the Old School Tie.
I play my part to see the rich have fun,
A leading role, together with the Gun.

The Glorious Twelfth is my great Day.
I’m centre-stage in that display.
I look down on all other Game;
Pheasants and I are not the same.

We meet with low-class Beaters on the heather,
For Grouse-Shoots bring the classes close together
And those who normally get little pay
Can now earn a cool fifty quid a day.
(No matter if their noble “chum”
Should miss and shoot them in the bum.)

They flush me out. I fly up in the sky.
Bang, bang! I’m hit. I topple and I die
And then I’m roasted on an open fire.
What greater Glory could a Grouse desire?

Staycation “not behind Covid spike”

Public health bosses put the spike down to “greater social mixing” – How’s your pub crawl going Simon? – Owl

From today’s Western Morning News. 

Public health bosses say they have no evidence a rise in coronavirus infection rates which has led to record case levels in Devon is down to an influx of holidaymakers.

Exeter has the second highest infection rate in England, while rates in Devon currently stand at 335 per 100,000 – only just below the peak seen in July.

Suggestions had been made that the rebound in case rates could in part be down to the surge of tourists visiting the Westcountry.

However, a spokesperson for Public Health Devon dismissed the rumours and instead put the rise in cases down to greater social mixing following the relaxation of Covid restrictions on July 19.

“There is no evidence to suggest that the rise in cases is attributable to holidaymakers visiting Devon. We are seeing a rise in positive cases, and that is to be expected as more people mix socially,” they said.

Exeter has recorded 780 positive cases of Covid-19 in the last week of available figures, predominantly among younger working age people. An infection rate of 583 per 100,000 in the city was the second highest in England after Lincoln.

In Cornwall the busy holiday resorts of Falmouth and Penryn are experiencing high case rates. It comes after Newquay saw Cornwall’s largest spike in figures last Tuesday, with a case rate of 577 per 100,000.

Public Health Cornwall says the rise in cases is down to a combination of factors, including the lifting of restrictions and increased transmissibility of the Delta variant.

Meanwhile, Plymouth has seen 1,162 new infections in the past week as the case rate rises.


From a correspondent:

NIMBY is an acronym for the phrase ‘Not In My BackYard’, which is a characterization of opposition by residents to proposed undesirable developments in their local area. 

Large development companies often use this colloquialism in a derogatory sense, labelling NIMBYS as obsessive, ‘nerdish anoraks’ for blocking housing, economic and employment growth benefits, lacking forward-thinking and fearing changes to the identity and character of their neighbourhoods.  

However, in reality NIMBYS usually are normal, ordinary people who have a very strong sense of what is right and what is wrong, are often open-minded to innovative, progressive development that will enhance communities but will not tolerate over-development and inappropriate designs just to ‘line the pockets’ of development company directors and shareholders!  

For centuries people have identified that ‘An Englishman’s Home Is His Castle’ – so most would agree that their homes are a sanctuary, an oasis and a shelter from undesirable encroachment, with any invasion being vehemently defended.  

So it is no surprise that, when inappropriate development is proposed directly in their back yards, that they will oppose any detrimental effects and they will summon those who have been elected as decision-makers at East Devon District Council (EDDC) to ensure that firstly they represent the people who will be substantially affected by this development and secondly that they make the correct judgement on the density and designs of homes that will remain in this  historic, rural community for several lifetimes! 

The precedent for this development ship has already sailed with the approval in December 2020 by EDDC Planners of the Outline Hybrid Application (20/1001/MOUT) commending the economic benefits of 2,000+ jobs alongside up to 94 housing units in a village community that actually has no local housing need. 

However, the majority of the proposed housing directly overlooks existing residents’ homes and back gardens, from not only a green field open space (Zone A) historically outside of the Local and Neighbourhood Plans but also from 40 towering four-storey apartment blocks on brownfield land (Zone D) opposite a Grade II* listed Manor House. 

The present Reserved Matters plans appear to show a welcome reduction in the Zone A green field housing but unfortunately the Zone D proposals still contain three blocks of 40 four-storey apartments, with an access road (serving a minimum of 80+ apartment vehicles) directly in line with the boundaries of existing residents’ homes, making them vulnerable to excessive vehicle noise, air and light pollution. However, a worthless, ‘spitting in the wind’ politically-correct ideal showing ‘grass-roofed’ covered parking for the apartments is also planned to ‘green up’ and  mitigate the intense, substantial harm of such over-development in this countryside location. 

These urban apartment proposals fail to promote sympathetic, considerate, neighbourly designs in a rural community and display a harmful intensity and over-development of the brownfield site and require a major rethink before they will persuade NIMBYS to become YIMBYS! 

This is a story that everyone in the country should hear

Message from: Led by Donkeys

Hello friends,

We’ve just started a collaboration with the brilliant folks at Good Law Project.

First up, a six-minute film on the jaw-dropping story of the secret back-channel that allowed friends of the Conservative Party and other politically-connected suppliers to secure billions of pounds of PPE contracts.

We projected it late last night on Parliament – it’s a film that everyone in the country should see (huge thanks to Gavin Esler for providing the voice over).

Thank you,


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