“MP accuses former Tory official of being a ‘fraudster’ and ‘cowboy’ who exploited legal loophole to hide source of ‘dark money’ “

“The Scottish Tory vice chair Richard Cook, who helped channel £435,000 to the Democratic Unionist Party was branded a “fraudster” and “cowboy” who deliberately masked “cancerous dark money” pumped into British politics ahead of the Brexit referendum.

In a Westminster Hall debate, the SNP MP Martin Docherty-Hughes called for an urgent review of current laws which allowed Cook, the chair of the Glasgow-based Constitutional Research Council (CRC) to exploit a legal loophole and avoid publicly stating the source of the record donation to the DUP.

The CRC is legally defined as an unincorporated association, permitted to donate money to political parties, campaigns and individuals in elective office.

Opposite of open democracy

Although the Constitution minister, Chloe Smith, told the debate that responsibility for unincorporated associations lay with the Electoral Commission, and that data held by them was a “treasure trove of information”, Docherty-Hughes said the way the DUP donation was organised was “the exact opposite of open, properly-functioning parliamentary democracy.” He questioned whether anyone in the DUP knew the source of the cash that was largely used to fund pro-leave campaigning on the UK mainland, and whether any “requisite due diligence” was done ahead of the money being accepted.

Under previous Northern Ireland electoral laws, donations to any of the major political parties were protected. The exact origins of £435,000 could have been revealed if the government had honoured its promise last year to back-date legal changes to the time of the 2016 referendum. This did not happen.

Poster boy to cowboy

Doherty-Hughes said Cook, a Tory candidate in the 2010 general election in East Renfrewshire, who had been photographed alongside the former prime minister, David Cameron, and with the current leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Ruth Davidson was “a poster boy for the way in which unincorporated associations have been used to funnel vast swathes of dark money into our political process.” …”


30 Devon health visitorsto be sacked in latest round of austerity cuts

From the blog of Claire Wright:


“The latest round of government budget cuts to public health is set to result in a loss of around 30 health visitor posts across Devon, it emerged at last Thursday’s (25 January) Health and Adult Care Scrutiny meeting.

During a presentation by Steve Brown, assistant director of public health for Devon County Council, I asked for clarification on the budget cuts as a result of reduction in funding of over £700,000 from central government ….

The narrative in the agenda papers stated that several of the budget lines are set to save mobey due to contract renegotiation. I asked for assurances that this meant only a renegotiated contract and not a reduction in service. Mr Brown confirmed that there would be no service reductions in those areas.

However, due to budgetary pressures in 0-5 children’s services, the contract currently managed by Virgin Care, it is anticipated that there will be a loss of 30 health visitor staff, due to ‘natural wastage’ (staff leaving and not being replaced), in the next financial year 18/19.

NHS funded mental health support in schools set to be lost

A cut of £223,000 to the public mental health in schools budget could mean that NHS funded emotional health and wellbeing service in schools will be scrapped, it was also revealed at last

Thursday’s meeting.

When I enquired, Mr Brown confirmed that the contract for the service was coming to an end and his department was searching for a new provider. He said it was a really valued service and if further efficiency savings could be made elsewhere, this service would be top of the list for funding.

I was completely dismayed at what I was hearing, given that anxiety and depression among young people is rocketing.

I proposed that the Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee relay its grave concerns to Devon County Council’s cabinet about the impact of the cuts on the public health budget.  In particular, the loss of 30 public health visitors and the potential significant impact on young people the cut of £223,000 to public mental health budget, especially at a time when anxiety and depression among young people is rising.

I also proposed that the Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee writes to all Devon MPs, asking them to take up the issue with the Secretary of State for Health.

Another proposal from the chair on continuing the push for fairer funding for public health in Devon was also put forward.

All recommendations were supported unanimously.

You can view the speaker-itemised webcast here”:



“Tory minister changes law retrospectively – to hide name of DUP donor”

“If this wasn’t such a serious matter, the thought of a retrospective law being changed retrospectively would be quite amusing. But it isn’t, because it is about so-called “dark money” that was funnelled to the Tories’ new playmates the DUP.

Last year, that party paid for a £282,000 advert promoting the Leave campaign in The Metro newspaper, a free publication that doesn’t even reach the DUP’s constituents – using cash from a £435,000 donation from the Constitutional Research Council (CRC). This group is chaired by Richard Cook, a former Scottish Conservative Party vice-chairman and businessman. This is all public knowledge.

But the original source of the cash is a mystery – and will continue to be, despite the provisions of the Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2014.

The Act received Royal Assent on March 13, 2014 and became law on May 5, 2016. Part of its scope was to end a rule allowing donors contributing £7,500 or more to parties in Northern Ireland to remain secret – as the purpose of that rule was to protect those funding political parties from becoming potential targets for terrorists during the Troubles.

As enacted by Parliament, the date from which party donors should expect their names to be released was January 1, 2014 – prior to the date in which it was passed, meaning that it was intended as a retrospective Act.

But Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire announced earlier this month that he was making a (retrospective) change and the amendment would only apply from 1 July 2017. So the period of the exemption has been shifted forward by three and a half years and now covers two general elections, two Northern Irish Assembly elections – and the EU referendum campaign for which the DUP received all of that Scottish money to spend on English newspaper adverts.

Mr Brokenshire said he “did not believe it right to impose retrospective regulations on people who donated in accordance with the rules as set out in law at the time”.

In the case of the DUP donation, this is nonsense as the law at the time made it perfectly clear that the identity of any donors would have to be published.

And Mr Brokenshire did this while claiming to be a champion of “full transparency”!

Now, This Writer is not one to go bandying unfounded accusations around, but I think we can all accept the following:

The decision to hide the original of the DUP’s donated cash casts suspicion on the Conservatives, the DUP and on Mr Brokenshire himself – and the stain won’t wash out until satisfactor answers are provided.


DUP funding secrecy to be stopped – but not for massive Brexit loan

Owl says: Two parties working together, both using dirty money to buy votes and manipulate power – are East Devon Tory voters happy with this?

“When the law over political donations was overhauled (or rather, introduced – as it had previously been pretty much a secret free-for-all), an exception was made for Northern Ireland. The requirements for transparency of donations in the rest of the UK* was not applied to Northern Ireland as, still fresh from its years of bloody violence, it was felt by many that forcing political donors to be named was not yet appropriate.

That secrecy has, however, come under recent sustained criticism as it has opened up a loophole for secret donations to impact not only elections in Northern Ireland but also UK-wide contests. In particular, a secret £435,000 donation to the DUP went on campaigning in favour of Brexit across the whole UK.

Now, however, the government has announced that donations in Northern Ireland will be subject to the same transparency rules as in the rest of the UK.

One catch – up until now, the source of large secret donations has still had to be recorded even if not published. The government’s plan is for those records to remain secret despite the Electoral Commission’s calls for transparency over donations made in recent years too. So the full story of that £435,000 for the Brexit referendum may never be known.

* This transparency is not perfect, as continuing disputes over unincorporated associations in particular demonstrates, but it is pretty widespread.”


Swire defends Tory/DUP deal – calls May and Foster a ‘feminist coalition’ and says Foster ‘a good woman’ who even drinks alcohol

Owl says: there is loads more of this twaddle on his website if you can bear to read it. If you voted for him, really you need to work out why.

“Sir Hugo Swire has defended the controversial Tory deal with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and called party leader Arlene Foster a “thoroughly decent woman”.

… Swire, the MP for East Devon and a junior minister in Northern Ireland under the first Cameron Government, says the DUP will “lie low” on issues such as same sex marriage.

He has hailed the parliamentary arithmetic of the minority government for allowing the emergence a new “feminist coalition” on women’s rights.

… He said he “knows and likes” First Minister Arlene Foster well and has urged people to give the deal a chance.

“I would count her as a friend as I do many of her colleagues,” Mr Swire added.

“The DUP under her is now much more socially progressive. It no longer represents the bigoted and sectarian Anti-Catholic sentiments of the Rev Ian Paisley. Arlene is not even a member of the Orange Order.

“In Belfast the DUP is increasingly reflective of the population that votes for it, which includes thousands of non-churchgoing Protestants. Arlene is an Anglican like Theresa May and a Lawyer, she has Catholic and gay friends and drinks alcohol. I have shared a glass or two with her myself over the years. She is patriotic and pro-monarchy like most Conservatives. She sees her place within the United Kingdom as her key to survival. She is a thoroughly decent woman.”


Now we must add the cost of women coming to England for abortions to the English NHS costs not Northern Irish

Surely these costs should be passed back to Northern Ireland? But better still, shouldn’t these wonen be spared the trauma of leaving their homes just to satisfy a few hypocrits? But there you go – the DUP is now in charge and we must expect this sort of stuff.

What does £1 billion buy?

Owl says: just remember, if you voted Conservative in June, these are the kind of things things you stopped us having.

“During her disastrous election campaign Theresa May kindly reminded us that there is “no magic money tree” to fix the country’s cash problems.

But this week the struggling prime minister has managed to find a spare £1billion to make a deal with the DUP to prop up her minority government.

That’s enough to fund 26,000 nurses.

Or free school meals for all primary school children for a year.

Or sprinklers on 600 tower blocks.



A billion pounds will buy 147,000 state pensions or 300,000 jobseeker’s allowances for a year.

Alternatively it could fund 2.3 million people’s disability living allowance per annum – three quarters of the total.

It would cover all diagnostic imaging – MRI scans, x-rays – for a year with a bit left over for other jobs.

Or another way would be to fund 26,000 nurses or 12,000 hospital doctors for a year.

It could pay for 167,000 hip replacements or 1.4 million hospital day cases.

A billion pounds could also pay for two flagship hospitals, such as Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital which opened in 2010.

A billion pounds would provide an 8hr course of talking therapy for 2.5m people. Or 750,000 eight-session courses of mindfulness therapy.

Or the army could pay for 40 Challenger 2 tanks. The basic production cost in 2002 of each tank was £6m.

£1bn could fund 8,500 troops.

With £1bn the government could, for a year, fund 27,000 primary or 22,000 secondary school teachers.

Or give free school meals to 2.5m children.

The average cost of a free school is £6.6 million – so that would mean about new 150 free schools.

With £1bn the government could build 16,600 new social homes or 50,000 shared ownership homes, according to Shelter.

£1bn could make universal the offer of 15 hours a week of childcare for 37 weeks of the year.”

Facts courtesy of this tweet https://twitter.com/CerianJenkins/status/879332594839687170

DUP will be back for more

Meanwhile the West Country deteriorates.

The Democratic Unionist Party’s £1 billion deal to prop up the Conservative government may end up costing the country far more because the DUP will be “back for more”, it emerged last night.

The Tories finally sealed a historic deal with the Northern Irish party which guarantees its 10 MPs will vote with the Government on key legislation, in return for which cash will go to Belfast for infrastructure, broadband, schools and hospitals.

But the £1billion payment – the equivalent of £33 for every taxpayer in the UK – could be only the start after DUP sources hinted that they will ask for more cash when the deal is “reviewed” in two years’ time. …”


The Conservative/DUP swamp just got swampier

“Politicians across Britain and Ireland have called for the Democratic Unionist Party to reveal the source of a £435,000 (€500,000) donation it received in the run-up to the UK Brexit referendum last year.

The DUP, which backed the proposal for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union, spent heavily during the campaign, including £282,000 (€325,000) on a newspaper advertisement and £32,750 (€37,500) with a data-analysis company linked to Donald Trump. It spent only about £10,000 in Northern Ireland.

The DUP has said that the £435,000 came the Constitutional Research Council, a group whose only publicly declared member is its chairman, Richard Cook, a former Conservative general-election candidate who lives near Glasgow and has business links with Saudi Arabian intelligence services. The council does not publish accounts and has refused to name its funders. Northern Irish election law allows political donations to be kept secret.

Politicians and campaigners from across the spectrum told The Irish Times that the DUP should reveal who funds the council.

The call comes as the DUP is set to support Theresa May’s minority Conservative government.

The Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat said: “Democracy depends on openness. That’s why we have transparency legislation on campaign donations.”
The Scottish National Party said failure by the DUP to reveal the names of the donors would “cast a dark shadow over Theresa May’s government” and its negotiations with the EU. …

The controversial £425,000 donation is widely considered to be the largest sum ever given to a Northern Irish political party. During the 2016 Stormont elections the DUP spent less than £90,000.

The £282,000 advertisement was a four-page wrap-around for the Metro newspaper, which is not available in Northern Ireland. The £32,750 spent on data analysis went to AggregateIQ, to target voters on social media. The company has been linked to Cambridge Analytica, a firm funded by the billionaire Robert Mercer, who heavily backed Brexit and Mr Trump’s successful presidential campaign.

Reports in the UK suggest the Democratic Unionists want Nigel Farage, the former Ukip leader, and the millionaire Brexit funder Arron Banks involved in the Brexit talks. Mr Banks has denied that he was involved in DUP’s Brexit donation but has said that the DUP asked him for money to support his Leave.EU campaign.

In February this year, during a televised debate ahead of snap Stormont elections, the DUP leader, Arlene Foster, said the donation came from “an organisation in England that wants to see the Union kept” but refused to give any more information.

Later that month the DUP said the money came from the Constitutional Research Council. Richard Cook’s business associates include Prince Nawwaf bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, a former director general of the Saudi Arabian intelligence agency. In 2013 Mr Cook set up a management company focused on the Middle East. His codirector was a Danish man named Peter Haestrup, who was named by India’s Central Bureau of Investigation in connection with a notorious 1995 arms drop. Mr Haestrup was never charged with any wrongdoing.

The UK Electoral Commission records donations to Northern Irish parties, but these are not made public because of security concerns dating back to the Troubles. This ban, called the Prescribed Period, was due to last only until October 2010, but that date has been repeatedly extended.

The leader of the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland, Naomi Long, called for the secretary of state to end the prescribed period “without further delay” and for the DUP to reveal details of the party’s Brexit funders.

“The situation in NI, where parties can receive huge donations yet not disclose them to the public, ought to have ended many years ago. However, now that the DUP are wielding influence over the UK government, continued secrecy around their finances is completely untenable,” Ms Long said.

The former UK Green Party leader Natalie Bennett said: “Given the apparently key role the DUP are going to play in deciding the future of Britain, we must have clarity about where this money came from and what steps the party took to check its source.”

The DUP did not spend all of the £435,000 Brexit donation. At the end of the campaign £9,000 (€10,300) was transferred into normal party funds.

The DUP declined to comment on this story.”