Not a good time for MPs with Middle East ties – but Conservatives Middle East Council thinks it is a “brand issue”

It’s hard to criticise a country on which our arms dealers are so dependent.

See here what the Conservatives Middle East Council (Chairman, Hugo Swire) thinks of “brand Saudi”

“Firstly, it needs to be said that Saudi Arabia will survive this crisis. Global politics are as they are, and the world will not stop buying Saudi oil, nor will Western nations abandon their decades old defence relationships with the Kingdom. Riyadh will not be any less secure as a result of the crisis, and with oil approaching $100 a barrel Saudi coffers will not be too adversely hit.

….. Whether Saudis want to admit it or not, the allegations of an horrific death of a journalist in a Saudi Consulate have resulted in the Crown Prince’s reputation taking a battering. Private sector companies have fled from the Davos in Desert conference scheduled to take place in late October. Ministers from foreign governments may still turn up, the cost of losing Saudi Arabia is too high. But the Ubers and JP Morgans of the world have calculated that the cost of being currently associated with brand MbS is higher than the cost of losing out on taking a slice of Saudi Arabia’s economy.

Like all brands, brand MbS might be able to resurrect itself, but it will take time. …..”

Here is what the Daily Mail has to say

“Crisis-torn Saudi Arabia has been lavishing hundreds of thousands of pounds on British MPs, the Mail can reveal.

The kingdom – under fire over the suspected state-sponsored murder of a journalist – has been pouring cash into a charm offensive.

In just two years it has tripled the amount of money spent on MPs to pay for luxury hotels, business-class flights and magnificent feasts.

Campaigners say 38 MPs who got freebies over the past five years are ‘accessories’ to a cynical bid to brush up the oil-rich Gulf nation’s tarnished image.

Saudi Arabia’s slick PR offensive comes as it battles international condemnation over the suspected murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Screaming Mr Khashoggi, 59, is said to have been recorded in his country’s consulate in Istanbul apparently being chopped up while alive – as the chief Saudi government hitman listened to music on earphones.

Saudi Arabia is also under intense scrutiny for staging bombing raids across Yemen that have killed thousands of civilians.

In 2016, British parliamentarians accepted £35,062 of junkets, gifts and other benefits from the authoritarian regime. But this year the figure is more than three times higher at £106,418 – and it is only October. The total since 2015 has been put at £208,000.

….. Last night Andrew Smith, from Campaign Against the Arms Trade, said: ‘At the same time as the MPs were enjoying luxury flights and hotels, human rights defenders were being abused and Yemen was being bombed.

‘MPs should be speaking out and taking action, not accepting gifts and hospitality.

‘The Saudi regime has one of the most appalling human rights records in the world, and MPs should not be supporting it. …”

“Expert” Swire on Saudi Arabian assasination of journalist and famine in Yemen? So far, no comment

Hugo Swire has spent (when at the Foreign Office) and still spends (by virtue of his Chairmanship of the Conservative Middle East Council) a lot of time in the Middle East and particularly in Saudi Arabia. Often in the company of British arms dealing companies.

So what does he have to say about the assassination squad, emanating from Saudi Arabia, that allegedly tortured and killed a critical journalist in their consulate in Turkey:

And the dreadful famine conditions in war-torn Yemen – bombarded daily by Saudi jets:

So far, attempting to find anything he has said on Google – nothing.

Pigs and troughs …. MP outside interests and payments: some snouts much deeper in the trough than others)

They get £75 – £150 for filling out Parliamentary surveys about what they think!!! Each one taking 30-60 minutes!!!

“Posh watches, football tickets and VIP trips – what your MPs get for free
Expensive gifts, football tickets, all-paid trips abroad, second salaries and fat dividends – all the perks and benefits enjoyed by your local MP.

Second jobs, cash for surveys and income from company shares, donors and second homes – these are just some of the ways your local MP makes extra money.

Plymouth, Devon and Cornwall’s political elite – in line with the rest of parliament – routinely lay out in full their financial affairs for all to see to maintain openness and transparency.

Some through their powerful connections, seniority and expertise gain more than others – whether that be a gift from a wealthy client, cash donations from the private sector, wages from another high-flying job or all-paid for trips abroad to promote UK affairs.

Those deep inside the inner Whitehall circle are REALLY pulling in the mega bucks.

Former foreign secretary Boris Johnson was recently thrown back in the spotlight after it was revealed he’s being paid £22,916.66 a month until July 2019 by the Daily Telegraph – an annual pay packet of £274,999 – to write articles.

Plymouth Live lifts the lid on the latest round of financial declarations, dated October 1, unveiled by Parliament.

Johnny Mercer – Plymouth Moor View [Conservative]

The Tory backbencher declared in parliament’s latest financial log he’s landed a second job earning £85,000 a year – in return for 20 hours work a month.

Ex soldier Johnny has taken up the role of non-executive director for military veterans support company Crucial Academy Ltd.

That’s on top of his paycheck as a member of parliament – £77,379 – taking his total annual earnings to £162,379.

Mr Mercer, who employs his wife Felicity Cornelius-Mercer as his Principal Secretary, has also publicly declared he was paid £300 by the BBC in March this year for a three-hour appearance at the BBC Free Thinking Festival.

He also had accommodation and travel funded by the Bahrain Embassy from April 5 to 9 this year so he could attend the opening of the UK/Bahrain Naval Base, meet with Government Ministers, as well as members of the Federal National Council and senior business figures in order to build on the ‘bilateral relationship’.

Luke Pollard – Plymouth Sutton and Devonport [Labour]

Mr Pollard – elected in the 2017 snap General Election – has declared he owns a house in Plymouth worth more than £100,000.

Gary Streeter – South West Devon [Conservative]

Mr Streeter, who employs his wife Janet Streeter as a part-time Junior Parliamentary Researcher, has made extra cash filling out online Government surveys.

The senior Tory politician also declared a £3,500 watch bought for him as a Christmas present from Plymouth millionaires Michael and Diane Hockin.

Mr Streeter’s cash for surveys

9 October 2017, received £150 for completing July and September 2017 parliamentary panel surveys. Hours: approx. 90 mins (45 mins each).

20 November 2017, received £75 for completing October 2017 parliamentary panel survey. Hours: 45 mins.

5 January 2018, received £100 for completing November 2017 parliamentary panel survey. Hours: approx. 45 mins.

5 February 2018, received £100 for completing January 2018 parliamentary panel survey. Hours: approx. 45 mins.

14 March 2018, received £75 for completing February 2018 parliamentary panel survey. Hours: approx. 45 mins.

19 April 2018, received £75 for completing March 2018 parliamentary panel survey. Hours: approx. 45 mins.

25 May 2018, received £75 for completing April 2018 parliamentary panel survey. Hours: approx. 45 mins.

29 June 2018, received £75 for completing May 2018 parliamentary panel survey. Hours: approx. 45 mins.

13 August 2018, received £75 for completing June 2018 parliamentary panel survey. Hours: approx. 45 mins.

Sarah Wollaston – Totnes [Conservative]

Ms Wollaston, Tory chair of the Liaison Committee and the Health Select Committee in the House of Commons, had no financial declarations to declare.

Anne Marie Morris – Newton Abbot – [Conservative]

The former lawyer owns two flats in London and a house in Surrey which generate income.

The Tory MP has a non-paid for position for marketing consultancy firm Manteion Ltd.

She is also a ‘non-practising’ member of the Law Society of England and Wales, the Chartered Institute of Marketing and the European Mentoring and Coaching Council.

Ms Marie Morris is also an unpaid director of the Small Business Bureau.

From March 2017, she became a non-paid director of the Genesis Initiative; a body that seeks to represent small business interests of European businesses.

Ben Bradshaw – Exeter [Labour] note: it does not say here that Mr Bradshaw donates all recent MP pay rises to charity

The Labour MP has made extra cash each month filling out ‘opinion’ surveys.

Mr Bradshaw is also a member of the Humboldt Advisory Board, at Humboldt University, in Berlin.

He wrote in his financial declaration: “Where possible, I attend annual Advisory Board meetings in Berlin, the costs of which are met by the university.”

Mr Bradshaw’s cash for surveys

Payment from ComRes, Coveham House, Downside Bridge Road, Cobham KT11 3EP, for opinion surveys:

12 June 2017, payment of £75. Hours: 30 mins.

22 August 2017, payment of £50. Hours: 30 mins.

22 September 2017, payment of £75. Hours: 30 mins.

29 September 2017, payment of £150. Hours: 1 hr.

17 November 2017, payment of £75. Hours: 30 mins.

14 March 2018, payment of £75. Hours: 30 mins

16 April 2018, payment of £75. Hours: 30 mins.

22 May 2018, payment of £75. Hours: 30 mins.

25 June 2018, payment of £75. Hours: 30 mins.

23 July 2018, payment of £75. Hours: 30 mins.

27 August 2018, payment of £75. Hours: 30 mins.

13 September 2018, payment of £100. Hours: 30 mins.

Geoffrey Cox QC – Torridge and West Devon

Geoffrey Cox has been MP for Torridge and West Devon since 2005 and is said to be the highest earning MP in the House of Commons, thanks to his other role as a barrister.

Mr Cox has declared hundreds of thousands of pounds in fees paid to him by solicitor firms in return for hundreds of hours worth of work over the last year.

He owns a cottage and farmland in West Devon and owns shares in an international law firm and a property company.

Geoffrey Cox’s vast legal fees

Payments from Messrs. Janes, solicitors. Address: 17 Waterloo Place, London SW17 4AR: 8 December 2017, received £24,750 for legal services provided between 1 September 2016 and 1 October 2017. Hours: 40 hrs approx.

31 December 2017, received £3,000 for legal services provided between 4 and 7 November 2017. Hours: 5 hrs approx.

31 January 2018, received £5,000 for legal services provided between 1 December 2017 and 31 January 2018. Hours: 8 hrs approx.

16 May 2018, received £4,500 plus VAT for legal services provided between 1 September 2017 and 31 May 2018. Hours: 9 hrs approx.

13 June 2018, received £5,750 plus VAT for legal services provided between 14 March and 22 May 2018. Hours: 10 hrs approx.

Payments from Messrs. Travers, Thorp, Alberga, Attorneys. Address: Harbour Place, 2nd Floor, PO Box 472, 103 South Church Street, Grand Cayman KY1 1106: 5 February 2018, received £40,000 for legal services provided between 1 September 2017 and 18 February 2018. Hours: 60 hrs approx.

Payments from Bachubhai Munim & Co Advocates & Solicitors, 312, Tulsiani Chambers, Nariman Point, Mumbai 400 021: 27 November 2017, received £85,387.50 for legal services provided between 14 February 2017 and 12 November 2017. Hours: 170 hrs approx.

31 July 2018, received £12,500 (no VAT) for work undertaken between 1 November 2017 and 30 June 2018. Hours: 25 hrs.

15 November 2017, received £3,333.33 from Registrar of Criminal Appeals, Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, London WC2A 2LL, for legal services provided between 1 January 2016 and 15 December 2016. Hours: 10 hrs approx.

Payments from Oracle Solicitors, 182-184 Edgware Road, London W2 2DS: 15 December 2017, received £119,733.33 for legal services provided between 1 July 2016 and 30 November 2017. Hours: 350 hrs approx.

15 May 2018, received £119,733.33 for legal services provided between 1 May 2016 and 30 April 2018 and continuing. Hours: 300 hrs approx.

31 August 2018, received £88,602.67 plus VAT for legal services provided between 1 March and 9 July 2018. Hours: 300 hrs.

Payments from LK Baltica Solicitors, 4th Floor, Kings Buildings, 16 Smith Square, London SW1P 3HQ: 14 March 2018, received £2,500 for legal services provided between 1 and 31 March 2018. Hours: 5 hrs approx.

13 April 2018, received £3,000 for legal services provided between 1 March and 30 April 2018. Hours: 5 hrs approx.

15 May 2018, received £6,737.50 for legal services provided between 1 February and 30 April 2018. Hours: 10 hrs approx.

16 July 2018, received £2,475 plus VAT for work undertaken between 1 April and 30 June 2018. Hours: 5 hrs.

Payments from Messrs Rainer Hughes, Oak House, 46 Crossway, Shenfield, CM15 8QY: 16 July 2018, received £1,000 plus VAT for work undertaken between 21 September and 12 December 2011. Hours: 2 hrs.

Mel Stride – Central Devon

Tory Paymaster General Mel Stride holds a stake of more than 15 per cent in Venture Marketing Group Ltd – described by parliamentary files as a ‘publisher, organiser of exhibitions and conferences.’

Peter Heaton-Jones – North Devon [Conservative]

Tory Mr Heaton-Jones’ only declaration is that he owns a house in Wiltshire worth more than £100,000.

Sir Hugo Swire – East Devon [Conservative]

Sir Hugo has had several ministerial roles, most recently as Minister of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Since 2016, the senior politician has earned thousands every month in prominent positions outside Parliament and holds shares yielding tens of thousands of pounds in a honey firm.

He employs his wife Alexandra (Sasha) Swire, as Senior Researcher/Parliamentary Assistant.

Sir Hugo’s outside appointments and earnings – in his own words

From 9 November 2016 until 1 June 2018, Adviser to KIS France, a manufacturer of photo booths and mini labs. Address: 7 Rue Jean Pierre Timbaud, 38130 Echirolles, France. I was paid £3,000 every month for this role.

Hours: 8 hrs per month. I consulted ACoBA about this appointment.

From 15 November 2016, Deputy Chairman of the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council. Address: Marlborough House, Pall Mall, London SW1Y 5HX. From 1 April 2018 I expect to be paid £2,083 every month until further notice. Hours: 10 hrs per month. I consulted ACoBA about this appointment.

16 November 2017, received £25,000 for acting as adviser to Apiro Real Estate Fund 1 Limited Partnership, 1 Connaught House, Mount Row, London SW1K 3RA. Hours: 10 hrs. I consulted ACoBA about this appointment.

From 18 June 2017 until 4 June 2018, non-executive director of ATG Airports, Newton Road, Lowton St Mary’s, Warrington WA3 2AP. From 5 February 2018, I was paid £2,500 every month for this role. Hours: approx. 4.5 hrs per month. Any additional payments are listed below. I consulted ACoBA about this appointment.

24 November 2017, received £10,086.72. Hours: 15 hrs.

From 19 March 2018 until further notice, Non-Executive Chairman of the British Honey Company, Unit 3 Vista Place, Coy Pond Business Park, Ingworth Road, Poole, Dorset, BH12 1JY. I will receive shares with a value of £50,000, in lieu of two years’ payment. Hours: expected to be about 5 hrs a month. I consulted ACoBA about this appointment.

Neil Parish – Tiverton and Honiton [Conservative]

Mr Parish declared he’d had all his expenses covered by the Conservative Friends of Israel to go on a ‘fact finding political delegation’ to Israel from April 8 to April 13 this year.

He wrote: “Estimate of the probable value (or amount of any donation): (1) Air travel, accommodation and hospitality for myself with a value of £2,500, plus airport transfer and hospitality for my spouse with a value of £600, total £3,100 (2) For my spouse and myself, bus travel and airport VIP service with a total value of £1,300.”

Mr Parish owns a family farm in Somerset and employs his wife Susan Parish, as Junior Secretary.

Sheryll Murray – South East Cornwall [Conservative]

Mrs Murray revealed she’d secured a Tory party donation from Looe Conservative Ladies Luncheon Club amounting to £2,776.91 in 2017.

Torpoint and District Unionist Club also pledged £3,000 that year.

Mrs Murray also declared she went on an all-paid expenses trip to Armenia from 21 September to 24 September last year to attend a ‘Progressivism and Conservatism conference’.

“Airfare and accommodation for me and member of staff with a value of £2,800,” she wrote.

All costs were covered by the Prosperous Armenia Party.

Scott Mann – North Cornwall [Conservative]

Scott Mann attended the Progressivism and Conservatism conference in Armenia in September last year, expenses to the tune of £2,800 covered by Prosperous Armenia Party.

George Eustice – Camborne and Redruth [Conservative]

Mr Eustice declared that he owns a one-bed flat in London.

Sarah Newton – Truro & Falmouth [Conservative]

Sarah Newton had no financial affairs to declare.

Steve Double – St Austell and Newquay [Conservative]

In January, Winchester-based tyre firm Micheldever Tyre Service gave Mr Double two tickets to a football match and threw in hospitality and hotel accommodation in a package worth £600.

The MP is also getting paid £18,990 to act as a policy advisor for Good Faith Partnership LLP in a nine-month contract finishing in December this year.

He also joined Tories on a ‘fact-finding political delegation’ to Israel in April this year – with all his expenses being covered by Conservative Friends of Israel and Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Mr Double’s affairs – in his words

Land and property portfolio: (i) value over £100,000 and/or (ii) giving rental income of over £10,000 a year

From 10 May 2018, a flat in St Austell, co-owned with my wife and inhabited by a family member

Shareholdings: over 15% of issued share capital

Bay Direct Media; a direct marketing company

Bay Mailing Services Ltd; a mailing house

Phoenix Corporate Gifts Ltd; a company selling branded merchandise

Family members employed and paid from parliamentary expenses

I employ my wife, Anne Double, as Principal Secretary.

Derek Thomas – St Ives [Conservative]

In 2017, the ex-property developer secured a £3,000 Tory party donation from Tresco island owner Robert Dorrien Smith.

Mr Thomas also secured £16,221 in sponsorship from Aventis Pharma Ltd for healthcare consultancy firm Incisive Health, to drive forward its Diabetes Think Tank initiative.

Since October last year, the MP has also jointly owned land, a house and a shop in West Cornwall with his wife.

Mr Thomas declared that since December 2015, he holds an interest ‘below registrable value’ in Mustard Seed Property Ltd, a community benefit society which provides housing in Cornwall for vulnerable people.”

Report that Randall-Johnson was with Swire and Minister of Health at Ottery St Mary

“If you thought Health Secretary Matt Hancock was a safe pair of hands for the NHS after Jeremy Hunt think again. Comedy antics ensued when the Hancock turned up at Ottery hospital. First he hid, then he hurried.

Matt may well have been doing a favour for a rich mate, East Devon money-bags MP Hugo Swire, but at what price, making him appear a hapless lacky to East Devon’s Tory elite.

Hugo by-passed the Department of Health to take Matt hospital surfing. They went to Budleigh Salterton Hospital, before popping into in Ottery.

East Devon Councillor and Devon County Council Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee Councillor Claire Wright was on hand, along with some residents, to ask the Health Secretary some questions.

Unfortunately, he was holed up solely with a number of East Devon Tories, including Sara Randall Johnson, chair of the Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee. East Devon MP, Mr Swire and his aides were also present.

Have a read of Claire’s account. It certainly seems weird, so does the behaviour of the communication people of the NEW Devon Clinical Commissioning Group.

‘Why was he so frightened about talking to a dozen residents, and the local county councillor?’ asks Claire.

‘I had been quite encouraged that he was visiting the hospital and wanted to hear from him that he will protect Ottery’s and other hospitals. After all, Mr Hancock commands the NHS and also NHS Property Services, which now owns many hospital buildings in the area.

‘They are all at risk of possible closure and sell-off due to the lack of funding available to pay the enormous rents NHS Property Services demands.

‘But his cowardly escape bid simply gave the impression of a man who does not wish to be even remotely accountable.’

But that’s not all. Here’s the response of an East Devon constituent, as posted by Channel 5 News Health Correspondent Catherine Jones (check out the picture).

[There follow many hilarious comments on Swire’s justification for his actions and a You Tube video of Hancock doing a karaoke version of “Can’t Stop Me Now]

Swire believes teachers are brainwashing our children but supports fruitcake who has even weirder views on education!

Has Swire gone the way of Trump? It seems the only credible explanation for this:

A few of Young’s beliefs:

“Toby Young was fired by Tories, who appointed him a few days earlier, from his post as head of the “Office for Students” over homophobic remarks and for proposing that when the technology for genetically engineered intelligence is practical it should be allowable for a decision to be made by poor parents with low IQs [note – not rich parents with poor IQs] over which embryos should be allowed to develop using intelligence as a marker. “It could help to address the problem of flat-lining inter-generational social mobility”, he wrote.

In 2012 Young wrote an article in The Spectator criticising the emphasis on “inclusion” in state schools, saying that the word “inclusive” was “one of those ghastly, politically correct words that have survived the demise of New Labour. Schools have got to be ‘inclusive’ these days. That means wheelchair ramps, the complete works of Alice Walker in the school library…”

Young has come under criticism for comments he made on Twitter, most of which were deleted upon his appointment to the Board of the Office for Students. Young claimed to have posted more than 56,000 tweets, of which 8,439 remain.

These included what a London Evening Standard editorial called “an obsession with commenting on the anatomy of women in the public eye”. He referred on Twitter to the cleavage of unnamed female MPs sitting behind Ed Miliband in the Commons in 2011 and 2012. When later challenged by Stella Creasy on Newsnight he said of the second such incident: “It wasn’t my proudest moment”. Other remarks included homophobic slurs, including a claim that George Clooney is “as queer as a coot”.

One tweet by Young was in response to a BBC Comic Relief appeal in 2009 for starving Kenyan children.[75] During the broadcast, a Twitter user commented that she had “gone through about 5 boxes of kleenex” whilst watching. Toby Young replied: “Me too, I havn’t [sic] wanked so much in ages”.[6] He has expressed remorse for his “politically incorrect” tweets.[76]

Young is believed to have edited his own Wikipedia page 282 times in the last ten years.

Prior to getting married, Young employed a Russian ‘daily’ whom he later described as ‘a kind of surrogate mother’. Young has since complained about the difficulty of finding reliable domestic staff.

Young has admitted using illegal drugs – specifically taking cocaine at the Groucho Club in central London,[84] and also supplying drugs to others. He was subsequently expelled from membership of the Club in late 2001 for writing about the cocaine use of his friends whom he had supplied with the drug during a photo shoot for Vanity Fair.”