Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Thursday, 26 July 2012

A tangled web

'I'm a reliable witness, you're a reliable witness, practically all of God's children are reliable witnesses in their own estimation, which makes it funny how so many versions of the same affair get about.’
(John Wyndham: The Kraken Wakes)

Step forward Baroness Warsi, Tory peer and party co-chairman.

The baroness has been cleared of wrongly claiming around £2,000 in overnight expenses while staying at the home of one Dr Moustafa, a party donor and aspiring politician (previously posted on here). According to her own statement, she made a 'financial contribution' while staying there, 'appropriate payments' equivalent to hotel costs.

So that's sorted that out, hasn't it? Well, no; not according to Dr Moustafa. The way he tells it, he met the baroness at a Party event in 2006 and offered to let her stay in his home, which she did on several occasions. By his own account a generous host, the doctor took her out for meals and gave her lifts to and from work while she was staying with him.

In return for this hospitality, he says, the baroness criticised him for eating non-halal meat and objected to the presence of alcohol in the house, threatening to smash the bottles. As for money, he claims never to have discussed money with the baroness or received any payment whatsoever.

So where did it go? Out third witness is Naweed Khan, a Tory party official and mutual friend of the doctor and the baroness (and later her special advisor). Mr Khan was, allegedly, staying rent-free on the top floor of Dr Moustafa's home, and this is where things get decidedly odd.

Mr Khan, says the doctor, was invited to stay for few weeks but ended up occupying a top-floor bedroom for a year and a half, without ever contributing to the expenses of the household; even by the accepted traditional standards of hospitality of Dr Moustafa's Egyptian background, that is surely above and beyond the call of duty.

Mr Khan, meanwhile, confirms that he did indeed receive payments from the baroness to compensate him for the 'inconvenience' caused by her presence (whatever that may have been); what he did with the money - the best part of £2,000 - remains a mystery.

Small wonder, then, that the former chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life described the situation as "very muddy and blurred" - and it's not helped by the fact that Dr Moustafa is in dispute with the Tory party over an unconnected matter.

The fact that the baroness has been cleared of wrongdoing establishes only that she is deemed to have acted in good faith. Should we taxpayers be entitled to know what happens to our money once it has been paid out in expenses? And if so, what did Mr Khan do with the cash, and why was he given it in the first place?

If anyone finds out, perhaps they might like to let Dr Moustafa know - unless of course, he's the one being economical with the truth.

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