Boris Johnson took accommodation worth £10,000 from Tory donor’s wife

Boris Johnson accepted free accommodation worth £10,000 from the wife of the leading Tory donor who hosted his wedding party this summer, it has emerged.

Alexandra Topping www.theguardian.com 

The updated register of MPs’ interests shows that the former prime minister accepted a £10,000 gift from Lady Carole Bamford, for “concessionary use of accommodation for me and my family in September”.

Lord Anthony Bamford, a pro-Brexit Conservative peer who is chairman of construction equipment manufacturer JCB, has been a major Tory donor for decades. The billionaire entrepreneur, who supported Johnson’s successful leadership bid in 2019, has given more than £10m in donations and gifts to the party since 2001.

The latest register of MPs’ interests data published this week shows Liz Truss also accepted an £8,000 donation from Bamford, to cover “transport” during her leadership campaign.

It comes after the register showed that the prime minister was given more than £500,000 for her leadership campaign. Around half of that came from donors linked to hedge fund bosses, venture capitalists and other City financiers.

In July, Bamford hosted Boris and Carrie Johnson as they celebrated their wedding, which took place during lockdown in the grounds of his 18th-century mansion Daylesford House in the Cotswolds. Johnson had abandoned plans to hold the celebration at the prime minister’s official country residence, Chequers in Buckinghamshire. The “festival-esque” celebration is said to have included a steel band, rum punch, Abba songs and a conga.

A previous register of MPs’ financial interests showed that JCB paid Johnson £10,000 three days before he gave a speech at its headquarters in January 2019 in which he repeatedly praised the company’s business acumen and innovation. The speech in Staffordshire was primarily about Brexit, but mentioned JCB a number of times, noting at the start how the company had sold nearly 750,000 units of one model of digger.

He crashed a digger displaying the slogan “Get Brexit Done” through a wall of fake bricks marked “Gridlock” during a visit to a JCB factory in a stunt during the 2019 general election campaign.

In 2022 Johnson faced a backlash after using a visit to India visit to once again hail the success of JCB, over the use of its machinery in the mass demolition of homes.

Amid a fierce row about the demolition of mainly Muslim settlements in an area of Delhi hit by communal violence, TV footage showed JCB bulldozers being used to flatten properties.

UK defies climate warnings with new oil and gas licences

The UK has opened a new licensing round for companies to explore for oil and gas in the North Sea.

By Jonah Fisher www.bbc.co.uk

Nearly 900 locations are being offered for exploration, with as many as 100 licences set to be awarded.

The decision is at odds with international climate scientists who say fossil fuel projects should be closed down, not expanded.

They say there can be no new projects if there is to be a chance of keeping global temperature rises under 1.5C.

Both the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the global body for climate science and the International Energy Agency (IEA) have expressed such a view.

The government’s own advisers on climate change said in a report earlier this year that the best way to ease consumers’ pain from high energy prices was to stop using fossil fuels rather than drill for more of them.

Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg says the new exploration will boost energy security and support skilled jobs.

And supporters of new exploration insist it is compatible with the government’s legal commitment to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. They say the North Sea fossil fuel will replace imported fuel and so have a lower carbon footprint in production and transportation.

Licences are being made available for 898 sectors of the North Sea – known as blocks.

“Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine means it is now more important than ever that we make the most of sovereign energy resources,” Mr Rees-Mogg said in a statement.

The licensing process will be fast-tracked in parts of the North Sea that are near existing infrastructure and so have the potential to be developed quickly, according to the North Sea Transition Authority. It says the average time between discovery and first production is close to five years but that gap is shrinking.

Both campaigners and the oil industry agree that the reserves will not be large enough to have a significant impact on the prices consumers pay for energy in the UK.

“This government’s energy policy benefits fossil fuel companies and no-one else,” said Philip Evans, energy transition campaigner for Greenpeace UK.

“New oil and gas licences won’t lower energy bills for struggling families this winter or any winter soon nor provide energy security in the medium term.”

North Sea oil and gas production peaked about 20 years ago and since then the UK has gone from producing more oil and gas than it needs, to importing it from other countries.

Offshore Energies UK, which represents the oil and gas industry say there could be as much as 15 billion barrels of oil left in the North Sea. It says that new fields will be less polluting than their predecessors and in a statement said there would be an environmental “bonus”.

The decision to launch a licensing round follows the publication of the government’s “Climate Compatibility Checkpoint“, which “aims to ensure” the new exploration aligns with the UK’s climate objectives.

The checkpoint criteria covers emissions from oil and gas production and how those emissions compare internationally but take no account of the carbon dioxide emitted when the oil and gas are burnt.

 

Tim Lethaby takes over as Editor of Sidmouth Herald, Exmouth Journal and Midweek Herald

More changes to local news following change of ownership of the Archant portfolio of titles.

The continued vitality of local news is so important to local democracy. – Owl

Sidmouth Herald Staff www.sidmouthherald.co.uk 

Newsquest, the UK’s leading local media group, has announced the appointment of Tim Lethaby as Editor of its titles in East Devon.

Tim has taken on an expanded role within the company as Regional Editor for the South West region, which includes the Sidmouth Herald, Exmouth Journal, Midweek Herald, Budleigh Journal and Ottery Herald.

These titles were previously owned by the Archant media group, which was bought by Newsquest earlier this year.

Tim was previously Editor for Newquest’s Somerset region, which includes the Somerset County Gazette, Bridgwater Mercury, Burnham & Highbridge Weekly News, and Chard & Ilminster News.

He will continue to run the editorial department of these titles, along with the other former Archant titles the Weston Mercury and North Somerset Times.

Tim has previously been Editor of the Western Gazette, the Mid Somerset Series of Newspapers, and the Blackmore Vale Magazine. He joined Newsquest in December last year from Nub News where he was Southwest Regional Editor.

He said: “I am delighted to be take on this new adventure with some of the most well-known news titles in the South West.

“I am relishing the prospect of leading these great regional news brands. The opportunity to further develop the titles’ digital offering through quality local content is incredibly exciting.

“As someone who is West Country born and bred, the opportunity to take the reins at titles that I have always held in high regard was not one I could ignore, and I am looking forward to working with what is clearly an incredibly talented team.

“Of course, at the heart of these titles are the readers and I would love to hear from everyone about what they like, and don’t like, so it will help me shape the publications and their websites moving forward.

“I will also soon be organising some Meet the Editor sessions in local cafes and coffee shops to chat to the readers in person about what the community feels are the main issues that we need to focus on.”

Tim has lived in the West Country all his life, and has attended far too many festivals, wassails and Somerset County Cricket Club matches than he can remember.

As well as a love for Somerset Cricket, Tim is a long-suffering supporter of Aston Villa and Bath Rugby.

Investment zones will create ‘slums of the future’, planning experts say

The Government’s proposed investment zones will deliver the “slums of the future” and do little to boost growth, planning experts have warned.

Richard Vaughan inews.co.uk 

Liz Truss has championed the creation of the “full fat freeports” in 38 different parts of the country as part of her “supply side reforms” to fuel growth in the economy.

But deep concerns over the plans have begun to emerge after the bidding process was opened earlier this week, which risks creating 38 different sets of planning regimes across the country.

According to the Government’s own guidance, authorities that are successful at the expression of interest stage will then work with officials on their plans, “including agreeing the specific tax incentives, planning liberalisation, and wider support for the local economy”.

But Hugh Ellis, policy director at the Town and Country Planning Association, said the plans will create “total chaos”.

“There will be real world consequences to scrapping planning regulations in these areas. It will mean developers scrapping affordable housing and flood protections. It will mean ditching habitat and other environmental protections,” he said.

“But above all, it just wont work. They’ve tried this before and it made no difference to growth. All it will do is create slums of the future because if you leave planning to the developers, it just leads to slums.”

The Government’s investment zones policy bears a striking resemblance to the 38 enterprise zones, which were introduced by the Thatcher government between 1981 and 1996.

In an Office for Budget Responsibility’s (OBR) fiscal forecast report published in October 2021, the watchdog said the economic effects of enterprise zones and freeports would “probably be difficult to discern even in retrospect”.

The OBR report also stated: “More broadly, experience of enterprise zones around the world points to little difference in performance between cities with zones and those without, with stronger determinants of performance being existing infrastructure and transportation links.”

i understands there is still disagreement within the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) as to the size of the new zones, meaning it is unclear whether they will be on the scale of industrial estates or entire sub-regions.

There are also concerns that the new proposals could allow development on environmentally protected sites, sites of special scientific interest and even national parks, although Levelling Up Secretary Simon Clarke attempted to placate fears of development on the latter this week at the Tory conference.

The CPRE, the countryside charity, warned the proposals looked similar to the planning reforms introduced by Boris Johnson that sought to strip out local consent and sparked a backbench rebellion and the loss of Chesham and Amersham to the Liberal Democrats.

Paul Miner, acting director of campaigns and policy at the CPRE, said the investment zones may succeed if they took into account local plans if the plans have gone through local consent. But, he warned: “If these areas are foisted on communities as a fait accomplis, then people will have real concerns.”

A DLUHC spokeswoman said: “Investment zones will drive growth by incentivising businesses to start, grow, and innovate by cutting taxes and restrictive red tape that hinders development.

“They will not be imposed by Government and will only be in areas where there is demand and need. This will bring much needed investment, quality jobs, higher wages and housing that local communities want and need.”

Could Sir Hugo become “Lord Swire of Knotty Ash”?

See here for his connection to Knotty Ash.

Is he on Boris Johnson’s Lavender List? He can be counted on to vote in the Lords as instructed and move on from his wife’s indiscretions in the “secret diaries”.

Floreat Etona!  – Owl

Brexit-backing Conservatives who supported Boris Johnson will be appointed to the House of Lords within days to reduce the chances of Tory legislation being defeated.

Ben Riley-Smith, Political Editor www.telegraph.co.uk – (Extract)

The Telegraph can reveal the full list of political peerages that is on the brink of being announced by Downing Street, subject to last-minute tweaks.

There are 15 Conservatives on the current list to become new peers, more than all the other political parties combined. Labour is due to get just eight new Lords.

Paul Dacre, the former Daily Mail editor, is set to become a Tory peer. He had been lined up by Mr Johnson for the chairman of the media regulator Ofcom, but the move fell through.

Sir Michael Hintze, the businessman and Conservative donor, is also in line to be elevated. He has given £4.7 million in donations, according to the Electoral Commission database.

Andrew Roberts, the historian who has written positively about Mr Johnson, and Tony Sewell, who investigated ethnic disparities for the Prime Minister, will get peerages.

There are also five former Tory MPs on the list – Stewart Jackson, Sir Hugo Swire, Angie Bray, Graham Evans and Sir Nicholas Soames…

….Dominic Johnson, the investor who set up Somerset Capital Management with Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Business Secretary, will get a peerage to become a trade minister.

…The list of political peerages was drawn up by Mr Johnson and his team when they were in Downing Street and has been scrutinised for months by an oversight body.

It is different to the list of resignation honours that Mr Johnson drew up when he was ousted as Prime Minister. That is weeks or even months away from publication….