The next former chairman of the Conservative Party should be celebrating the predicted win for the Tories in Henley in advance of the Conservative parliamentary party awayday this weekend. Instead, she's hanging on for grim death as her own parliamentary colleagues stamp all over her bruised fingers.
At the moment, they are still anonymous, but how long will it be before someone comes out and suggests she should do the decent thing and resign?
Newsnight threw another punch tonight. They've finally tracked down the missing link in the Spelman office chain, her Westminster secretary Sally Hammond. She's been a little hard to identify, because although it was known that the problem with paying the nanny was originally raised by one of Spelman's London staff, the turnover in that office meant that Ms Hammond didn't appear on the registers as she worked for Spelman in between the annual publication dates in 1997 and 1998.
Anyway, it seems that Ms 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.This was backed up by Ms Haynes' father-in-law, who said
It's bloody RIDICULOUS to say she was an MP's secretary. She has no idea how to be a secretary or do secretarial work. She has only ever worked as a nanny since I've known her. That's all she knows.Anyway, Ms Hammond was concerned and this got to the ear of the Chief Whip, who suggested that Ms Spelman might like to change her childcare arrangements forthwith.
The story has unravelled from the start. First, there was the claim that the arrangement lasted for one year, when it actually lasted nearly two. Then we had the claim that there was no constituency office - a lie highlighted by the fact that the Conservative headquarters in Solihull had handled matters for both Meriden and Solihull constituencies for more than a decade prior to Spelman's election. There was also the implication that the nanny worked in Meriden, when we know that she spent much of her time in Knockholt, the Kent home of the Spelmans until late 1998.
I don't know how long Spelman expects to keep her job as party chairman - Cameron has already promised to sack those who aren't open about their expenses and Derek Conway had the whip withdrawn. Let's just revisit some of the parliamentary commissioner's comments over that case
No records appear to exist of either actual work that FC did for his father, or the work he was required to undertake... no one outside of the Conway family was aware of the work... We note that FC seems to have been all but invisible during the period of his employment... This arrangement was, at the least, an improper use of parliamentary allowances: at worst it was a serious diversion of public funds. Our view is that the reality may well be somewhere between the two...
Gone by the weekend, I predict.
Surely the sleazebuster-in-chief has to be held to the same standards - if not higher?