Snipe - The Scoop

Friday, 19 June 2009

Simon Stacpoole denies being paid for Boriswatch

There's been some hoo-hah around these parts about this story in the Evening Standard:

Boris put in claims for 'awesome' website - Paul Waugh

Boris Johnson was refused a £500 expense claim for a payment to a man who runs a pro-Boris website when he was MP for Henley-on-Thames and running for Mayor of London.

Commons officials refused to approve the bill for Simon Stacpoole, who runs the Boriswatch.com site - which describes Mr Johnson as "the mutt's nads" and praises him as "awesome"...

Mr Stacpoole was paid £1,000 in November 2007 to build a new website for the MP.

Now to me this story and headline appears to suggest that Boris paid or attempted to pay Simon Stacpoole to run Boriswatch.com.

If true, it would mean that Boris was secretly funding a pro-Boris campaign site with taxpayers' money.

Quite a serious story no? So why aren't the Standard leading with it?

Because it isn't true. Here's the reply I got from Simon

Adam,

Neither of the two claims were for Boriswatch.com. I am a web developer, and I developed the backend solution for boris-johnson.com. That is what Claim 2 (£1000) is for. Claim 1 (£500) was rejected, as far as I understand it, only because it was bundled into Claim 2.

There is no more to the story than that. Thanks for checking though - you are the only one who has! ;-)

Simon

It didn't take me too long to confirm Simon's involvement with the Mayor's official website, nor the fact that Waugh had not contacted Simon about these claims.

However there is still a question about whether and why the two claims were bundled together in Boris's expenses and I'm waiting for a response from the Mayor on that.

But regardless of this, the implication that Stacpoole was paid to run Boriswatch.com is clearly wrong.

-Update- I've just spoken to Paul Waugh. He told me that he did not intend to imply that Simon was paid for Boriswatch and says that the story will be amended to make this clear.

7 comments:

Simon said...

Thanks Adam! At least you actually did some investigation...

Tom said...

I have to say my Wayback Machine based research last night showed that the only Boris-related site that migrated to Wordpress (which was what the invoice stated) in the timeframe was boris-johnson.com - backboris.com never was WP based, which would have been the other option, and boriswatch.com is at least four years older anyway.

However, boris-johnson.com was stated to be funded by the PCA, so the only question that remains is whether the content on the site was acceptable for a taxpayer funded effort, which I'm not wholly sure it was/is, plus whether it was value for money. £1000 isn't excessive, though, seen from my own position in the IT industry.

There's also the question of who's funding or running it now, since we paid for it.

Simon, while you're here, did you sockpuppet a couple of times on boriswatch.co.uk a while back?

AdamB said...

Happy to clear it up Simon.

Yes Tom there are some questions for the Mayor, which I will hopefully get some answers for later today.

I also concur, no sockpuppeting please.

Anonymous said...

However, boris-johnson.com was stated to be funded by the PCA, so the only question that remains is whether the content on the site was acceptable for a taxpayer funded effort, which I'm not wholly sure it was/is, plus whether it was value for money

I would echo what Tom says.

If you read the articles on boris-johnson.com, it is apparent that they are overtly political, with a lot of Labour-slating content

Take for example http://www.boris-johnson.com/2007/06/21/gordon-brown/

Or http://www.boris-johnson.com/2007/10/04/thoughts-on-an-early-election/

Or http://www.boris-johnson.com/2007/11/22/lost-revenue-customs-data-discs/

What is the taxpayer doing funding this? Surely the purpose of the allowance was for non-political communication with constituents?

Anonymous said...

It still hasn't been amended

Peter said...

See the House of Common's guidance on the communications allowance to see why Boris has quite clearly broken the rules http://www.parliament.uk/documents/upload/HofCCommunicationsAllowanceBooklet.pdf

1.4 ...Neither the Communications Allowance (or HoC stationary) can be used for personal benefit or for party political activities or
campaigning.

1.7 It is your responsibility to ensure that all expenditure funded under the Communications
Allowance...is wholly, exclusively and necessarily incurred on your Parliamentary duties. Parliamentary resources may not be used for communicating information
about your political activities or those of the party to which you belong. You are responsible for ensuring that your use (of allowance) is above reproach

6.11 The CA may only be used to help Members inform their
constituents about what they have been doing and to consult them on issues of importance to them locally. It cannot be used to meet personal costs or the costs of
party political activities or campaigning

6.2.1. You must avoid any arrangement which may give rise
to an accusation that...public money is being diverted for the benefit of a political
organisation. The content of any communications paid from the
allowances must not seek to compare the Member’s party favourably with another, promote one party at the expense of another or seek to undermine the reputation of political opponents.

6.12.2. The CA may be used to pay for setting up and maintaining
a website or web presence only if its purpose is to inform
constituents about your work as a Member and to provide
contact details. It must not be used to fund party
political activity or campaigning.

6.12.4
You must not use your CA funded publications or websites:
* to criticise or campaign against anyone seeking election
or otherwise seek to undermine the reputation of political opponents
* for the purpose of advancing perspectives or arguments
with the intention of promoting the interests of any political party or organisation you support,
or damaging the interests of any other such party or organisation

Fairly clear boris-johnson.com is ineligible for the allowance (see examples of 2007 articles, which are clearly political). Question is, does it matter?

AdamB said...

Well rules is rules...

There's also the question of undeclared income from the site.