1922 and all that…

Although its been quiet for some time and rather dropped off the public radar, this is still an ominous sign for any senior Tory:

We have now learnt that a number of Conservative MPs who are now familiar with Mrs Hammond’s version of events have approached the chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee to demand that Mrs Spelman be sacked.

The 1922 Committee is obviously not quite the force it was back in the days when it was only Conservative MPs who had any say at all in the matter of who leads their party, but its still the last thing that any Conservative minister or senior party official would want to get on the wrong side of, particularly when Spelman’s ‘I hired my nanny to do secretarial work’ cover story has unravelled even further:

Newsnight has learned that nine years ago Mrs Spelman was “shopped” by her secretary Sally Hammond, who complained to the Conservative Party leadership that she was using Parliamentary allowances to pay her nanny.

Mrs Hammond could not understand why the MP had so little money available for office expenditure.

She was shocked to find that much of the annual Commons allowance was being paid to Mrs Spelman’s nanny, Tina Haynes.

As far as she knew, Ms Haynes did little or no secretarial work to justify this.

Mrs Hammond took her complaint to Peter Ainsworth – then, as now, a member of the Conservative shadow cabinet, and for whom Mrs Hammond had once worked.

He referred the case to the then chief whip, James Arbuthnot, who was worried by what he was told, and told Mrs Spelman to stop paying her nanny from Parliamentary money at once.

Another of Mrs Spelman’s previous Westminster secretaries was also unhappy that the nanny was being paid from public funds – which amounted to about £14,000 a year, I am told, or more than £25,000 over 22 months.

During which period, Spelman’s personal contribution to her child care costs amounted to giving the nanny free board and lodging.

As the nanny was, supposedly, working six hours a day during the week for Spelman as a ‘secretary’, the figure of £14,000 given for her annual salary equates to a full time salary of £17,500 a year in 1997/8, and if we allow for a modest 2% increase per annum over intervening years to give us a current equivalent salary, we get a figure of around £22,000, the equivalent of a scale 6 public sector post, which would be a pretty senior clerical position at just below a supervisory/junior management grade.

And this for someone whose secretarial experience and qualifications are, shall we say, at best uncertain and who, as she told Newsnight, answered the phone, took and passed on messages and occasionally posted letters.

Just as interesting here is the role of Conservative Central Office, which, in the wake of Newsnight’s first report, wheeled out one of its press officers to assist the nanny in putting out a statement in an effort to cover Spelman’s arse – and with the story unravelling as we speak (or write in this case) we have to ask exactly what staff at CCHQ were told and what they may have known, or not known, about Spelman’s arrangement with her nanny.

Was CCHQ simply given the cover story and an instruction to run with it, or were they given the truth and told to construct a cover-up?

On way or another, there’s bound to be rather more by way of splashback arising out this than simply Spelman finding herself on the carpet.

  • redpesto

    Of course that does leave the question Catherine Bennett asked in the Observer: how many nannies would really work for food?