“Boris Johnson defends playing tennis match with wife of former Putin minister in exchange for £160,000 Tory donation”

… “Mr Johnson insisted not all Russians should be tarred with the same brush – and there was nothing wrong with accepting Russian cash if donors were not guilty of “gross corruption”. …”

Good use of the word “gross” there – minor or moderate us absolutely fine then?

He goes on:

“If there is evidence of gross corruption in the way that gentleman you mentioned obtained his wealth, then it is possible for our law enforcement agencies to deprive him of his wealth.

“That is a matter for the authorities, it is not a matter for me. …”

Again that clever and calculated use of the adjective!

“Mr Johnson admitted for the first time today that the tennis match happened.

Since then Ms Chernukhin’s total of cash donations to the Tories since 2012 has climbed to almost £500,000.”

Last month she bid £30,000 for a meal and private tour of Churchill’s War Rooms with Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson at the Tories’ lavish Black and White Ball fundraiser. … “


“Tory minister dodges questions on why Russians donate to his party and what they expect in return”

“A Tory minister has dodged a question asking him why Russians donate to his party and what they expect in return.

The Conservatives have received more than £820,000 in political donations from Russian oligarchs since Theresa May became Prime Minister.

This includes a £30,000 from the wife of a former Putin crony to dine with the defence secretary.

The widow of the murdered spy Alexander Litvinenko called on the Tories to return the donations telling the Prime Minister: “You need to be very careful who you are friends with.”

Transport secretary Chris Grayling was representing the government on Question Time.

But he ignored the question posed by presenter David Dimbleby who asked: “The point is why do they want to give money to the Tory Party, what do they get back from giving money to the Tory Party?”

Mr Grayling replied: “You can’t accept money from people who are not UK citizens or UK businesses.”

Russia Today presenter Afshin Rattansi hit back saying: “The wife of the former deputy finance minister, Putin’s former deputy finance minister Lubov Chernukhin at a fundraising event for Gavin Williamson the defence secretary of this country who protects national security in this country.”

Earlier this week Jeremy Corbyn was accused of politicising the Salisbury poison attack for criticising Russian donations to the Tory Party.

He told the House of Commons: “We’re all familiar with the way huge fortunes, often acquired in the most dubious circumstances in Russia, sometimes connected with criminal elements, have ended up sheltering in London and trying to buy political influence in British party politics,” he said.

“Meddling in elections, as the prime minister put it, and there has been over £800,000 worth of donations to the Conservative Party from Russian oligarchs and their associates.”

This evening Chris Grayling had no answer as to why those Oligarchs are so keen to donate to the Conservatives.

Instead he parroted the line about his party following electoral law saying: “We have clear rules about political donations, we follow those rules, they are properly scrutinised.

“What we must not do, we have a lot of people who are Russian, who are now UK citizens who live in London who’ve actually left Russia.”

He continued to say that those people should not be tarred with the same brush but he was interrupted by Afshin Rattansi who said: “This is the wife of the former deputy finance minister, where do you think she got the £30,000 to give the defence secretary?”

The Daily Mirror reported last month that the Tories had accepted £30,000 from the wife of a former crony of Vladimir Putin to dine with Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson .

The money was given by Lubov Chernukhin, who is married to ex-Russian deputy finance minister Vladimir Chernukhin, after she made a successful bid at last week’s Tory lavish Black and White Ball.

Her prize includes a private tour of Churchill’s War Rooms in Whitehall by the defence secretary before he hosts a dinner for her and a group of friends.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said the Conservatives had repeatedly opposed Labour plans for tackling financial crime by Russians in the UK.

“Over the last two years the Tories have repeatedly opposed our plans for smashing money laundering by the oligarchs,” he wrote on Twitter.”


Conservatives and Russians … and Saudis … and Quataris

Owen Jones, Guardian:

“The Conservative party is in the pocket of foreign powers that represent a threat to the national security of Britain. It is a grotesquely under-reported national scandal, lost amid a hysterical Tory campaign to delegitimise the Labour party with false allegations of treason. If Labour had received £820,000 from Russian-linked oligarchs and companies in the past 20 months – and indeed £3m since 2010 – the media outrage would be deafening. But this is the Tory party, so there are no cries of treachery, of being in league with a hostile foreign power, of threatening the nation’s security.

When questioned about the Russian donations to the Tory party, the chancellor, Philip Hammond, pointedly refused to return the money. “There are people in this country who are British citizens, who are of Russian origin,” he protested. “I don’t think we should taint them, or should tar them, with Putin’s brush.” How noble: a Tory challenging the demonisation of migrants.

Before we get out the bunting, though, let’s look at one donation as an example. It was 2014, and Lubov Chernukhin, the wife of Russia’s former deputy finance minister, paid the princely sum of £160,000 to play tennis with David Cameron and Boris Johnson. In total, since 2012 – when the Electoral Commission initially declared her an “impermissible donor”, before subsequently allowing her to donate – she has handed the Tories £514,000.

I put it to you gently that if Labour took half a million pounds from the wife of a former Cuban minister, there would be no debate about whether this represented a scandalous financial relationship with the Cuban regime. Other examples include £400,000 from Gérard Lopez, a businessmen on the board of a company that partnered with Russian banks that had sanctions imposed on them during the Ukraine crisis.

It goes further than that. By last October, Tory MPs had received four times more money from Russia’s state-run Russia Today TV channel than Labour MPs: it is welcome that the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, has said that his colleagues should no longer appear on the channel. The Conservative party is notoriously dependent on donations from the financial sector. The tens of millions of pounds poured into the Tories’ war chest are not offered as acts of charity and munificence.

In 2011, for example, the Financial Times reported that “even donors admit that Tory MPs’ desire to cut the 50p top rate of income tax is because these rich City donors are so close to the party”. This same City of London is awash with dodgy money from Russia. No wonder, then, that in 2014 a secret government document revealed plans to stop any sanctions against Russia that might damage the City. Labour has attempted to introduce legislation that could prevent certain Russian individuals entering Britain or block their assets: how mysterious, then, that the Tories blocked it for “technical reasons”.

Then there are the links to other regimes that combine contempt for human rights with a threat to our national security. Take Saudi Arabia, ruled by a totalitarian, fanatical regime that likes to slice the heads off gay men and dissidents, which treats women with what can only be described as barbarism, and which exports international extremism. In the two years or so after it began bombing Yemen – including with British weapons – Tory MPs received £99,396 from the Saudi regime in the form of gifts, travel expenses and consultancy fees. Hammond was one of them: he received a watch worth nearly two grand from the Saudi ambassador.

In the past five years, moreover, Saudi Arabia and other autocracies spent £700,000 on luxury trips for MPs, more than 80% of whom were Tories. Just under £200,000 of that was money from Saudi Arabia to pay for the excursions of 41 MPs, 40 of whom were Conservatives. Now why would they possibly be doing that? Could it be – given that MPs receive nothing from our democratic allies for such trips – that this is part of a clear PR offensive, an attempt to secure influence over the Conservative government?

Indeed, Rehman Chishti – the newly appointed vice-chair of the Conservative party for communities – received £2,000 a month from the Riyadh-based King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies between March 2016 and January 2018. Although the parliamentary commissioner for standards saw no reason to take action, it is worth noting his rampant pro-Saudi dictatorship sympathies. His Twitter feed includes boasting of being congratulated by the Saudi dictator for being re-elected as an MP in 2015, hosting lectures by Saudi officials, and leading Tory parliamentary delegations to Saudi Arabia. His colleague, Daniel Kawczynski, goes on TV to justify the barbaric Saudi assault on Yemen, crows about writing the “most pro-Saudi book ever written by a British politician”, but then threatened to sue when this was linked with went on a trip worth £6,722.14 paid for by the Saudi regime.

Litvinenko widow warns Tories over Russian donations
And then there is the Tories’ financial heart. The Qatari dictatorship owns three times more property in London than the Queen, and more than the mayoralty. Indeed, the Qatar Investment Authority owns Canary Wharf, the Shard and Harrods. Let’s be clear: the Qatari regime has backed extremist and terrorist organisations, as have wealthy individuals under its jurisdiction. As Paddy Ashdown put it in 2015, David Cameron failed to put sufficient pressure on Qatar and Saudi Arabia to stop funding extremism, leading Ashdown to “worry about the closeness between the Conservative party and rich Arab Gulf individuals”. Consider Theresa May’s refusal to publish a report on foreign funding of extremism. Well, it would hardly go down well with the Gulf states, which are so deeply embedded in Tory milieus, would it?

What a farce. There was rolling coverage smearing Jeremy Corbyn as a traitor based on the testimonies of a single crank from the former Czechoslovakia. And yet the Tories are at the centre of a web spun by the Russian and Gulf regimes. Hundreds of people in Salisbury are now washing their belongings after traces of a nerve agent were found at the restaurant suspected to be the location where a Russian spy, and his daughter and a British policeman were poisoned.How is it morally acceptable for the Tories to take the Russian or Saudi shilling? What are the practical implications of this? And where is the never-ending media outrage over it? The answers to these three questions paint a damning picture indeed.”


“Litvinenko widow warns Tories over Russian donations”

Why should ANY UK Party be allowed to take donations from non-UK companies or nationals?

The Conservative Party has also blocked us knowing who funded the DUP anti-Brexit campaign that paid hundreds of thousands of pounds for anti-Brexit newspapers not available in Ireland.

“The Conservative party is facing pressure to return Russian donations after the attempted murder of the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal on British soil.

Marina Litvinenko, the widow of another former Russian spy, Alexander Litvinenko, whose murder is believed to have been carried out under the direction of Russia’s FSB spy agency, said the Tories risked tainting their reputation if they held on to the cash.

“You need to be very accurate where this money came from before you accept this money,” she told Sky News. “If you identify it’s dirty money [you’re] just not allowed to accept it because I think reputation is very important. [The] reputation of the Conservative party in the UK and all around the world needs to be clear.”

The Sunday Times reported that Russian oligarchs and their associates had registered donations of £826,100 to the Tories since Theresa May entered No 10.

A spokesman said: “All donations to the Conservative party are properly and transparently declared to the Electoral Commission, published by them and comply fully with the law.”

Litvinenko accused May of failing to act to prevent a reoccurrence of the type of attack to which her husband fell victim. …”


“Westminster councillor resigns after receiving nearly 900 gifts and hospitality packages in six years”

Owl says: what is happening to Westminster council’s Monitoring Officer, Leader and Standards Committee? Nothing, so far.

And NO-ONE should be Chair of a Planning Committee for SEVENTEEN years!

“The deputy leader of Westminster city council has stepped down after it was revealed he had received nearly 900 gifts and hospitality packages over six years.

Robert Davis, a Tory councillor, was the chair of the borough’s planning committee until last year.

He has stepped aside as deputy leader and cabinet member for business, culture and heritage as an independent QC investigates his conduct.

Councillor Robert Davis has referred himself to the City Council’s monitoring officer and has decided to stand aside as Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Business, Culture and Heritage while the investigation is undertaken,” said Nickie Allen, the leader of Westminster City Council.

“Our residents need reassurance that the planning process is not only impartial, but is seen to be impartial,” she said, adding she had “asked the council’s chief executive to look at all aspects of the decision-making process to ensure planning is, and is seen as, an independent and impartial process.”

The Guardian revealed Mr Davis had received gifts and hospitality invitations 893 times over the last six years, which frequently came from property developers who were seeking planning permission.

Gifts and hospitality packages worth more than £25 must be declared and some of the items and invitations received by Mr Davis exceeded the figure.

The Cambridge graduate is the longest serving member of the council, having been elected in 1982. He was voted Conservative councillor of the year in 2014 and given an MBE in 2015 for his service to local and government planning.

“I think it’s important to recognise Robert Davis remains a candidate for the May election,” Adam Hug, leader of the Labour Group, told The Independent. “He remains a councillor.

“This move has been described as standing aside, with a clear view that if no legal wrongdoing is found he may return to his post. As he remains a candidate it is clear that the Tories believe what is known and not disputed is acceptable for them.”

He added: “Westminster Tories knew this was going on, did nothing for decades, and it is clear that unless legal wrongdoing is found, he may return to his post.”

In a statement, Mr Davis said: “Due to the ongoing interest and wrongful assertions regarding my time as chairman of planning I have decided to step aside from my roles as deputy leader and cabinet member for business, culture and heritage whilst the council investigates.

“In 17 years as chairman of planning committees which granted hundreds of applications and resulted in the council receiving substantial sums for affordable housing, public realm and other public amenity, I have at all times acted with the independence and probity required by my role.

“My desire to rigorously declare all meetings and hospitably, regardless of its nature, underpins this transparency and independence. It is trite to confirm that within these 17 years, I have got to know many of the developers and associated professionals who work in the city and help to develop Westminster into one of the most important economic centres in the country and home to over 280,000 people. Any suggestion or implication that I have done anything other than to further the interests of the city and its residents are baseless and strenuously denied.”


Tory donor puts screws on tenants in Grenfell-type block

“A company run by a property tycoon who recently made a five figure donation to the Tories is forcing the residents of a block of flats with flammable cladding foot the bill for safety measures.

The latest party funding figures reveal the Tories pocketed £10,000 from Ashcorn Estates Limited, which is owned by James Tuttiett, a multimillionaire who lives in a £1.6 million farm house which has its own vineyard.

Another of his companies, E&J Estates, has been in the news recently.

It owns an apartment block in Salford which was found to have been constructed with a similar type of cladding to the one used on the Grenfell Tower.

The Guardian reported last month that E&J have told residents that they have to pay the £100,000 cost of interim fire wardens needed to make the building safe until the cladding is replaced.

The company even took legal action to enforce the charge, which one resident said would cost him an extra £235-a-month.

Matthew Crisp told the Manchester Evening News:

“I’m worried this now sets a precedent for us to foot the bill for the cladding too, and that’s devastating, as I don’t know if I’ll be able to continue living in my home.”

Crisp’s fears aren’t unfounded.

Scrapbook revealed in January how residents living in a building owned by a separate millionaire Tory donor were forced to pay the £2 million to replace flammable cladding.

The Government say they are clear that “private sector landlords follow the lead of the social sector and not pass on the costs of essential fire safety works.”

So why do the Tories keep taking their money?”


Oh, what a surprise! Another poor, poor developer at Hayne Lane, Honiton

One presumes that Councillors Diviani and Twiss are aware of this, having declared hospitality from Baker Estates in September and December last year:



“Developer requests reduced affordable housing provision on residential development at Hayne Lane, Honiton

Local planning authority will consider offer from Baker Estates to provide improved mix of houses at Hayne Lane development plus £0.5m contribution towards off-site affordable housing

East Devon’s Local Planning Authority (LPA) has received a request from Baker Estates to amend the amount of affordable housing that they provide on their development of 300 houses on land to the west of Hayne Lane in Honiton.

The request will be considered after 12 noon at the next meeting of East Devon District Council’s Development Management Committee on 6 March 2018, which is being held at Exmouth Town Hall

East Devon planning officers are recommending that the request be agreed.

As present Baker Estates is required to provide 40% of the dwellings (120 units) as affordable housing in accordance with the original planning permission granted on the site in 2015.

However, the developer is now asking the LPA to agree to reduce the affordable housing provision to 30% or 90 dwellings, whichever is the greater. This change would also affect the amount of financial contribution being secured for off-site open space, which would be reduced from £488,000 to £210,000.

In exchange Baker Estates is offering an improved mix of houses on the site and £500,000 financial contribution towards off-site provision of affordable housing.

The applicants have submitted this request as they believe that current planning policy would support a reduction in the provision of affordable housing down to 25%, if a new planning application were to be submitted. While they are offering less than the 40% affordable housing provision currently secured, they are offering more than the 25% they believe they would be required to provide if a new planning application were submitted.

The planning officers’ report advises that while there is a chance that Baker Estates may not be able to successfully argue 25% affordable housing provision as part of a new planning application, there is an equal chance that such a proposal would be acceptable should an application be submitted and determined on appeal by the Planning Inspectorate.

In addition, the planning officers believe that the viability of the site is such that it is unlikely that the council would be able to secure the current 40% provision into the future, and that agreeing to the request will negate the need for a lengthy and costly planning appeal, enabling the development to proceed as quickly as possible while providing 90, much needed, affordable housing units.

The report can be viewed on the council’s website:


Cllr Mike Howe, Chairman of East Devon’s Development Management Committee, said:

“It is important that this sort of decision is made in the public view, so that everyone can understand the issues at stake. It is about striking a fair balance, while ensuring that the right amount of affordable housing provision is made.”