Many of you are personal friends as well as politically interested, so you may like to know of some changes in my direction. Up to now, I’ve been working as Director of Policy for Cruelty Free International, a leading animal welfare campaign and as part of the commitment to them I’ve taken a step back from most things political since last year, partly because the role involved working with all parties.
But I’ve come to feel that I wanted to get involved again, and also to do a wider range of work. So as of yesterday I’ve stepped down from the job and I’m now freelance, with a variety of projects for Cruelty Free as well as other things, not only about animal welfare. This also frees me politically and I’m going to return to the arena more actively in various ways. An immediate activity in that context is that I’ve been asked by Jeremy Corbyn and Kerry McCarthy (shadow Secretary of State for DEFRA, which includes animal welfare) to prepare a much more substantial package of animal welfare measures than any major party has had up to now, ranging from breeding practices to slaughterhouses to proper enforcement of the Hunting Act to handling of prosecutions for cruelty. I’m consulting a wide range of groups and expecting to put it to the party conference in September. Input welcome!
This also means that I’m considering putting my name forward for Parliamentary selections again in due course, though no doubt that’s some way off. In the meantime I hope to help out wherever I can: the current Government seems to me frankly past its sell-by date, and I hope to contribute to the job of developing Labour’s programme as a coherent and reasonable alternative – not only in the animal welfare field. It’s particularly important that we have a convincing economic programme, and as I’ve worked in senior management in the pharmaceutical industry and have run two successful small businesses of my own I have ideas to contribute. More on this in the future.
Meanwhile, the police are actively pursuing the issue of possible breaches of the election spending limits here and elsewhere, as I’ve mentioned. You can see the story here:
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Accusations of election expenses fraud have been rearing their heads again this week – and another Nottinghamshire MP is facing questions. Our Political Corre…
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Essentially, as I understand it, the Conservatives ferried campaigners around the country in a battle bus, paying for their stays in hotels and presenting them as campaigning for local candidates on local issues, but failing to declare the considerable expenses either as local or national. They have said that this was an administrative error but they now argue the spending should be counted as national, which would mean that the criminal offence of overrunning the local spending limits would not apply. I’m not a lawyer so I can’t comment on that point of law – it’s up to the police and prosecuting authorities to decide.
Conservatives, however, are now tweeting that Labour also had a battle bus which brought campaigners in, implying that it’s much the same thing. That is something that I do know about and it is a distraction from the actual issue of declaring funding of hotel costs. When volunteers came in to the constituency to help – typically coming out from Nottingham – we had a minibus to take them to the specific streets where we were canvassing. In the evening, the volunteers pushed off – presumably to go home. Nobody that I know of stayed in any hotel, and my campaign paid zero accommodation costs for them, so the issue that the police are investigating is unrelated. It is a mistake – to be charitable, perhaps a misunderstanding by Conservatives, who can’t be expected to be familiar with detailed Labour campaign organisation – to try to suggest that this is comparable.