I have read some tat in newspapers in my time but the Daily Echo’s article about disgraced Romsey MP, Caroline Nokes planning application, published only in the ‘paper’ newspaper on Tuesday 24th October 2017, really was a crock of sh*te!
I know there are some people who don’t like my blog and don’t want to be associated with me (rest assured I haven’t lost any sleep about this) but at least I have been put my head above the parapet to try and question the version of the truth manufactured by the Tory faithful in Romsey and peddled by the likes of the Daily Echo and Romsey Advertiser.
I cannot, therefore, let the Daily Echo’s sanitising of Nokes conduct pass without comment.
The article once again raises serious questions about the Daily Echo’s political impartiality and whether its role is that of a ‘local news outlet’, or Tory PR machine, given that over the last few years it has failed to report news about the MP that is a matter of public interest, and is selective when it does.
When former Editor Iain Murray left the Echo, many claimed things would be different. In fact Murray was close friends with both Caroline Nokes MP and her father, Roy Perry, who is the leader of Hampshire County Council. Expenses claims show Cllr Roy Perry used taxpayers money to fund nights out with Murray.
The reality is, nothing has changed.
Tuesday’s article, was buried on page six of the Daily Echo, a left-hand page. It took at least one formal complaint that I am aware of, about the article’s lack of ‘web presence’, before it finally appeared on the Echo website two days later at 8.00am, Thursday 26th October 2017.
Given that a Tuesday paper is bought and read by barely three men and a dog these days, it is legitimate to ask whether the Daily Echo’s choice of position, and failure to publish the article on-line until challenged, was a deliberate attempt to protect the MP’s reputation.
Likewise, the Echo’s sister paper, The Romsey Advertiser, published the story even further back on page 7 on Friday 27th October 2017 and by all accounts a Romsey Advertiser was hard to find on Friday as even the public copies in local libraries in and around Romsey were ‘missing’. The Echo article can now be read HERE. The Romsey Advertiser one HERE.
This story should be on the front-page of both papers because not only does it involve the Romsey and Southampton North MP, but it also involves the Leader of Hampshire County Council, Cllr Roy Perry.
On Sunday 22nd October 2017, The Sunday Times exposed Nokes for misleading planners in relation to the development of a ‘Coach House’ at her property in Canada Common.
The Sunday Times spent a considerable amount of time and money researching this story, even going as far as engaging top planning lawyers who investigated Caroline Nokes’s planning application and who declared “any such application has to declare the identity of the property’s true owner to comply with the law. Anyone who submits a false certificate of ownership can be found guilty of an offence and face a fine of up to £5,000.”
I am sure given the MP’s questionable record; toy-boy expose, broken election promises, controversial junket to the ‘cannibal’ dictatorship of Equatorial Guinea and the receipt of at least three four-figure ‘donations’ from property developers in recent years, most sensible people will accept the planning lawyers position here.
The MP’s dubious conduct aside, I think it’s clear from the Sunday Times article that they strongly believe Nokes and her ‘agent’, Graham Jenkins RICS of The Garden House, Woodside, Chilworth, knowingly made a false declaration on her Application and that is fraud under the Fraud Act 2006. You do not have to ‘gain’ from your actions just the ‘intention’ qualifies as an offence under law.
The double standards don’t just apply to the local press – the New Forest National Park Authority (NFNPA) said it was not in the publics interest to prosecute Nokes for this fraud. At least though this is an admission that she did something wrong even though they intend to let her get away with it.
There are already calls for Steve Avery, Executive Director Strategy and Planning at the NFNPA to be sacked for Misconduct in Public Office for knowingly allowing Nokes planning application to stand and not prosecute.
In true Nokes fashion of course she claimed to the Daily Echo that it was all someone else’s fault, not hers, and the suggestion that this was a “genuine error” is an insult to her constituents intelligence, who, if any of them had made the same error, would have felt the full force of planning law brought down on them.
If it was such a “genuine error” why did Nokes and her ‘agent’ refuse to respond to the Sunday Time’s enquiries: “The minister and her father declined to comment. Nokes’s agent hung up when asked about his involvement”.
Further, the original planning application had been made in Nokes name, but then somehow it was re-submitted using the name “Elisabeth Bellingham”. Are we really being asked to accept that the ‘agent’ put down the incorrect name of the home owner – his ‘client’?
The declaration on the Application is a legal declaration. This means is must be correct. Are Nokes and the Daily Echo asking us to accept that someone making a planning application on behalf of a MP did not double and triple check that the Application was correct – including the name of the person who owned the house?
Surely it is more likely, as many suspect, that the true intention behind the use of Elisabeth Bellingham’s name was to disguise the fact that the Application was the MP’s and not just excuse the Application and MP from extra scrutiny and legal declarations but hide the fact that Caroline Nokes was planning to convert the garage block for the use of her parents.
Did the Daily Echo also decide it was a “genuine error” that neither Nokes, nor her father, Cllr Roy Perry, Leader of Hampshire County Council, who lives in the newly converted ‘Coach House’, pays any Council Tax on the property, and that is why the article omits any reference to Cllr Perry?
Cllr Perry recently announced £140 million worth of cuts to Hampshire County Councils services such as social adult’s health and care, subsidised bus and community transport and recycling centres.
Further, Cllr Perry is proposing that residents fund the shortfall which has led to the cuts, by increasing their Council Tax.
Easy to suggest for a man avoiding paying Council Tax.
The ‘Coach House’, which is believed to be worth approx. £250-£300,000, has separate services and utilities from the main house and should therefore be classed as a separate independent dwelling eligible for Council Tax, so why did the Daily Echo not go to Cllr Perry for comment?
It’s often been suggested that Nokes is a puppet politician for her father, who is living out his failed political ambitions through her. It was Elisabeth Bellingham (nee Perry) who was always the preferred Romsey Tory Candidate until, I understand, a serious faux pas at a social event that involved ‘flip-flops’. Maybe that’s where the confusion came in on behalf of the ‘agent’, maybe he had never met Nokes in person to know the difference between Elisabeth Bellingham, Caroline Nokes or Cllr Perry for that matter!
Can the real Caroline Nokes MP stand up and then step down please!
For the avoidance of doubt in the future here is a handy little chart for the MP’s ‘agent’, and the Daily Echo, of the differences between the MP and her sister, Elisabeth Bellingham.
So what happens now?
- Will this latest incident force the local Tory Exec to finally give Nokes the boot?
- Will the people of Hampshire call for the resignation of Cllr Perry as their Leader, as he avoids paying council tax, while demanding they pay more?
- Will the New Forest Park Authority comply with the law and prosecute Nokes?
- Will the opposing Lib Dem, Labour & UKIP parties in Romsey and HCC find their voices or have they been silenced too?
While there are many associated with the local Conservative Party who claim to dislike the MP and her father nothing ever comes of their comments. Quick to criticise others activities, I suspect for most it’s just ‘talk’ as ultimately they want a Tory Government regardless of the quality of Tory MP in Romsey.
So once again there is nothing to see here folks – move along – but could I just ask that in the interests of Health & Safety, you walk around the growing pile of lies, deceit, excuses and corruption that is gathering under the carpet in Romsey!
For a exhaustive account of the application click here: