EXCLUSIVE: In the week he got promoted in Thick Lizzy’s government, Croydon South’s Conservative MP was judged to have broken strict House of Commons rules by using his parliamentary office to campaign on behalf of Jason Perry. By STEVEN DOWNES
It’s fair to say Chris Philp has had a mixed few days.
Lost amid all the national gnashing and a-wailing and the elaborate displays of virtue signalling by politicians of all hues following the death of the unelected monarch, there has also been some fall-out from the government reshuffle conducted by Thick Lizzy Truss, the new Prime Minister.
First, Philp, the Conservative MP for Croydon South, got news that, for conspicuous service to the art of arslikhan, he had been promoted to the important job as Chief Secretary to the Treasury. Get in!
But then it emerged that while Philp would be attending Cabinet meetings, he would not be a full member of the Cabinet. Off the post!
It’s a classic example of “close but no cigar”, because as well as missing out on the cherished status, Philp loses out on 36 grand a year in salary. As Chief Secretary, he’ll get an extra £31,680 per year on top of his MP’s salary of £84,144 plus generous allowances and exes. As a full member of the Cabinet, that top-up figure could have been £67,505.
The salary question may be of little real concern to wealthy Philp, who made himself a millionaire by flogging booze and fags out the back of a van to service stations, after running a company that subsequently went bust (stiffing the Exchequer for thousands in unpaid tax).
On the up-side, with his important new government office, Philp was told that he would be made a member of the Privy Council. Not bad for a sarf London grammar school boy. He’d get to meet the Queen and…
It is thought that it was the Privy Council meeting that got binned on Wednesday night as the Queen’s health rapidly deteriorated was where Philp’s elevation to being a “right honourable” was to have been confirmed.
Without the formal blessing of the monarch, Philp’s PC status remains in a kind of limbo. His name has not yet been added to the official list of 700-plus Privy Counsellors.
Nevertheless, Philp still managed to attend Saturday morning’s Proclamation of Accession at St James’s Palace, the first time that ceremony had been held in 70 years, and where he got to sign the formal proclamation.
In doing so, Philp was very probably the signatory who had most recently been found guilty of breaking the House of Commons Code of Conduct.
Last week the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards had published her ruling that Philp had broken the strict rules that prevent MPs using their Westminster facilities for political campaigning.
Philp had been subject of two separate complaints in March this year, when he was carpet-bombing the residents of Croydon South with emails calling on them to vote for Jason Perry and “kick out” the Labour administration at the Town Hall at the local elections.
The Commissioner had a welter of evidence to prove the case, all with Philp’s gurning face leering out from the top of his emails and with his signature on the bottom as “Member of Parliament for Croydon South”. And all used his parliamentary email address, email@example.com.
The Commissioner even had Philp’s admission that he had sent the emails – at least 10 of them, to a mailing list of 2,500 (it must be said, a somewhat suprisingly low number).
The emails from soon-to-be Treasury minister Philp even included one inviting residents to a Croydon Tories fund-raising dinner at a Purley curry house – one that had been owned by local councillor Badsha Quadir, the generous donor to the local Conservatives who liquidated various companies when the taxman came calling for hundreds of thousands of pounds in unpaid VAT and taxes.
But despite the overwhelming weight of evidence and multiple offences, the Parliamentary Commissioner for No Standards decided, in familiar style (see the feeble sanctions imposed in the past when “Lord” Barwell was caught red-handed in similar egregious breaches of the House of Commons Code of Conduct), to let Philp off with nothing more than a very stern ticking off for being a very naughty boy.
Philp had ‘fessed up to his crimes, saying that as he had been using some form of internet mailing service, he didn’t realise that by signing up to it using his parliamentary email address that it would be sending the emails out as if from that very same e-address. Seriously.
Philp, let’s not forget, is now regarded as one of the finest talents in Thick Lizzy’s Conservative parliamentary party, one worthy of a seat at the Cabinet table.
After extensive to-ing and fro-ing between Kathryn Stone, the Commissioner, and Philp, as well as seeking advice from parliament’s IT director, in her judgement report, which is published in full here, she wrote, “Having considered the information available to me, I found that Mr Philp had breached paragraph 16 of the Code of Conduct.
“Given the number of emails sent, the size of the distribution list, the short timeframe, and the political content of the email circulars I gave careful consideration to the most appropriate means of concluding this matter. However, I decided that this matter could be resolved using the rectification procedure available to me under Standing Order No150.
“When making my decision, I considered the explanations provided by Mr Philp and the [IT] Managing Director and found that, Mr Philp had incorrectly believed that, because the email circular was sent from the online marketing platform and not the parliamentary server, the email circulars did not constitute a breach of the Rules.
“I also took into account Mr Philp’s acknowledgment and apology for the breach as well as the action he had taken to amend the email address to remedy the breach and to prevent reoccurrence, and the nominal costs incurred as a result of Mr Philp’s actions.”
So that’s all right then.
And of course, there’s no way of rewinding and erasing any impact that Philp’s dodgy emails might have had on the Croydon Mayoral election, where Perry won by fewer than 600 votes.
Philp must be hoping that this week gets a bit better. From his new office in the Treasury, he only has to deal with the fuel price crisis and the country’s head-long dive into the latest Tory-inspired recession.
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