Archive for March 5th, 2010

As we get closer to the election, The Tories are finding that the Press is getting more interested in their policies and ‘other activities’. The Guardian reports this morning…

Lord Ashcroft faces new claims of tax avoidance

Exclusive: Bills for huge opinion polls for Conservatives ‘sent to peer’s Belize firm’

Fresh concerns about Lord Ashcroft emerged tonight when he was accused of “systematic tax avoidance” by exploiting his offshore status to avoid paying VAT on opinion polls he commissioned for the Conservatives. Ashcroft privately ordered what he boasted was the biggest political polling exercise ever conducted in Britain in 2005, in order to aid the Tories as they targeted marginal seats. The cost of the polls, commissioned from YouGov and Populus, is believed to have approached at least £250,000.

But sources familiar with the transactions told the Guardian that the bills were paid by one his companies in Belize, meaning he did not pay VAT.

Tonight, the Liberal Democrats’ Treasury spokesman, Vince Cable, said: “This is quite serious. We are now not talking just about Ashcroft’s non-dom status, but about systematic tax avoidance in funding Conservative party activities such as polling. How far were the Conservatives aware that Ashcroft did not pay VAT, as would have been incurred by any normal polling activity?”

The Guardian also noted that Hague did not tell Cameron about Lord Ashcroft’s non-dom tax status until a month ago and “Ashcroft did not even reveal his tax status to Cameron when in December the leader approached him to discuss plans to ban non-doms from parliament, despite the fact that he had already told Hague.”

It is comforting  to know that Cameron is on top of things and running a tight ship when it comes to party affairs. Still… you have to hand it to the Tories, their strategy of pumping money into marginal seats may well win them the election….and Cameron is certainly ‘boldly going where no man has gone before’…or as we say down in Battersea while drinking Rioja…Ad eundum quo nemo ante iit.

I’m beginning to feel a bit sorry for Cameron….an aphorism by Horace may be of assistance in these difficult days, Dave…Aequam memento rebus in arduis servare mentemRemember when life’s path is steep to keep your mind even.

Peter Brookes, in The Times, has caught the mood exceptionally well with this marvellous cartoon.

And talking of ‘unusual dealings’… RollonFriday reports…Two ex HBJ Gately Wareing lawyers who were accused of attempting to extort money from the Duke of Buccleuch have appeared in court.

The Sun leads this morning with…

CHILD killer Jon Venables’ cover has been blown in the prison where he is held, The Sun can reveal.

The 27-year-old murderer of toddler James Bulger was given a new name nine years ago.  The Sun notes…”Fearful Venables is being given 24-hour protection inside jail as he gorges on burgers and chips in his cell.”

Venables, detained under his own name (kept from all but a few senior prison staff, is under 24 hour guard but, as The Sun reports, tough lags will be certain to know that he is in the prison.  The government continues to refuse to explain why Venables is back in prison.

Coverage of a serious news issue  having drained them, The Sun reverts to type and reveals that Mick Jagger did something with Angelina Jolie….. which is, clearly, in the public interest….I can’t even be bothered to extract the lurid details….!

UK involved in my torture, says suspect

The Independent reports: Man claiming ill-treatment in Egypt says Britain ‘turned a blind eye’ to his rendition.

Britain may have colluded with America in the rendition of terror suspects that involved “torture flights” from UK territory, judges were told yesterday.

The claim was made by Mohammed Saad Iqbal Madni, 28, a former Guantanamo Bay inmate who was returned to Pakistan in August 2009 after seven years in custody.

Mr Madni alleges he was detained in Indonesia on 9 January 2002 and sent to Egypt, where he endured three months of torture. He alleges he was beaten, electrocuted, denied medical treatment and hung from metal hooks attached to the ceiling.

His lawyers, the legal charity Reprieve, say that there is “considerable circumstantial evidence” that the plane carrying Madni from Indonesia to Egypt passed through the British territory of the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia. Yesterday they asked the High Court in London to force the British Government to hand over all the information it might have about the flight, including the names of the US personnel Reprieve claims were aboard. They contend that documents held by the British Government could provide evidence that the UK authorities knew of the rendition flight and “turned a blind eye”.

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