The Week In Westminster: pounds 200 supper may land Twigg in soup

STEPHEN TWIGG, who won Enfield Southgate for labour from Michael Portillo, could be in danger of following Fiona Jones in the Newark election expenses fiasco. Mr Twigg appears to have started his re-election campaign in Southgate already, and runs the risk of making himself liable to incurring election expenses during the next two to three years.

On mysterious notepaper headed: "ST2M" Mr Twigg this week wrote begging letters inviting attendance at "a very special evening - the launch of a fund to help my re-election as the Member of Parliament for Enfield Southgate". Mr Twigg is to hold a reception and dinner on 19 May at the prestigious West Lodge Park Hotel in his constituency where "we shall be joined by the architect of New Labour, the Rt Hon Peter Mandelson MP".

Uninhibited by the recent rows over blind trusts, Mr Twigg has set up "the ST2M trust fund through which I hope to secure sufficient resources to open a constituency office at the earliest opportunity". The letter continues: "If you cannot join us on 19 May, please consider making a donation to `ST2M'." But why are donors not asked to pay the dosh straight to the Southgate Labour Party coffers?

Sources at Conservative Central Office claim that, under election law, the clock begins ticking for election expenses the moment an MP or candidate declares they are campaigning for re-election. The cost of Mr Twigg's dinner and subsequent political activities should, according to my Tory mole, be included in his next election expenses return with the consequent risk that he will have exceeded the legal limit before the election is even called.

There is no such thing as a free lunch but the ticket prices of political dinners can fluctuate widely, indicating the relative power, popularity or influence of the guest of honour. The cheapest, at pounds 50 a ticket, is the Conservative London Region Dinner (including wine) with William Hague on 28 April at the Marriott Hotel, Grosvenor Square; pounds 125 buys dinner with Baroness Thatcher on 20 April to celebrate the 20th anniversary of her election as Prime Minister. But pounds 200 a plate is the price Stephen Twigg is charging for his champagne reception and dinner with the MP for Hartlepool. The price of New Labour can never be too high.

JAMES ARBUTHNOT, the Conservative Chief Whip, broke parliamentary convention last week by moving the writ for the Newark by-election. Making his first speech in the Commons since the general election, Mr Arbuthnot triggered a debate that resulted in the Government successfully voting down his application.

In the past it has been a well-established principle that the party currently holding a seat applies to move the writ to set in train the by- election. During Harold Wilson's time as Prime Minister, his government frequently avoided by-election trouble by leaving a vacancy unfilled for anything up to a year. A subsequent gentlemen's agreement was established that a by-election should be held within three months of a vacancy and only the party that previously held the seat should move the writ.

The Newark vacancy was declared by the High Court with effect from 19 March so Labour is perfectly within the convention provided the election is held by mid-June.

No one could fathom Mr Arbuthnot's motives since he did not have the votes in the division lobby to enforce his motion. He played a dangerous game, however, for the Tories in the future. Should a Conservative-held seat fall vacant, Labour will now be tempted to pull the same trick and move the writ to suit its own purposes. What is more, it has the majority to carry the motion. Parliamentary conventions are best maintained or breaches can return with a vengeance.

LIBERAL DEMOCRAT leadership contenders, who are not supposed to be campaigning for a vacancy that is not yet supposed to exist, are having difficulty in covering their tracks as their offices are mostly situated on the sixth floor of the office block at 7 Millbank where the walls are exceptionally thin.

While Don Foster and Nick Harvey continue to maintain outwardly friendly relationships, their aides' ears are pressed to the wall, trying to overhear the respective hushed whispers of endless streams of former Liberal Democrat press officers who are suddenly filing into each other's offices. Paddy Ashdown's injunction that there should be no campaigning for the leadership is being honoured rather more in the breach than the observance.

WITH RECENT press rows over the high-life comforts of ministers when flying abroad, Downing Street has hit on the clever wheeze of buying peace with journalists.

When the Prime Minister visits Chicago and Washington for the Nato summit later this month, lobby correspondents, broadcasters and photographers will travel Club Class in the Prime Minister's aircraft - at a cost of pounds 3,500 to their editors. In the past the press have been confined to the back of ageing RAF VC10s.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
News
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
arts + entsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker