Eyebrows raised over Tory candidate’s ‘unusual’ £100,000 MPs’ expense claims

In September 2018, the parliamentary watchdog wrote to Davies saying that the invoices from Big Ben Partnership contained “no information on the topics of research, or a breakdown of costs claimed”. After later reviewing materials supplied by Davies, the regulator said that it was “content that the materials are parliamentary in nature”.

The hardline pro-Brexit European Research Group, of which Davies has been listed as a member, is similarly funded by MPs out of their parliamentary budgets. Earlier this year, IPSA was heavily criticised after openDemocracy went to court to force the watchdog to release the ERG’s research, which experts subsequently said was “highly partial”.

Davies confirmed to openDemocracy that Big Ben Partnership’s work is carried out by Laura Midgely, who co-founded Campaign Against Political Correctness in 2004 with her husband, John Midgely. The Midgelys had previously worked with Davies’ father Peter after he successfully ran for mayor of Doncaster on a platform of cutting what he deemed “politically correct” initiatives such as the borough’s racial multi-agency partnership and gay pride events.

Philip Davies confirmed that Laura Midgely has a parliamentary pass by virtue of her work for him. Davies has been the “parliamentary spokesman” for Campaign Against Political Correctness, which is now defunct.

The only publicly available reference we could find to Big Ben Partnership research is in a men’s rights newsletter. It reports Davies’ 2016 claims that men were unfairly treated in the justice system compared with women. Baroness Corston, a Labour peer considered to be an authority on women in the justice system, said that there was no evidence to support the MP’s claims.

Earlier this year, Davies spoke at a men’s rights conference in Chicago on the same platform as a number of controversial figures. They included former UKIP MEP candidates Carl Benjamin, who tweeted a rape joke to Labour MP Jess Philips, and Mark Meechan, who taught his girlfriend’s dog to perform a Nazi salute. Also on stage was Paul Elam, leader of the US men’s rights group that once announced an ‘Annual Bash a Violent Bitch Month’. Davies said that his appearance at the conference did not mean that he agreed with other speakers present.

Davies was criticised in 2009 after it was revealed that he had run what journalists at The Guardian as a “one-man campaign against ‘political correctness’”. He had written nineteen letters to Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, including one that asked “why it is so offensive to black up your face, as I have never understood this”. He also asked whether it was racist for a policeman to refer to a BMW as “black man’s wheels”. Davies said that he believed in equality and as such disagreed with “positive discrimination”. “That builds up a resentment that doesn’t exist before,” he said.

Davies has a long record of opposing a range of legislation on protecting women’s privacy and safety. He ‘talked out’ a private member’s bill to ban upskirting and attempted, unsuccessfully, to filibuster a bill to ratify the Istanbul Convention on preventing domestic violence.

He has also blocked legislation to give free hospital car parking to carers, reverse NHS privatisation and to ban the use of wild animals in circuses. Davies has said that talking non-stop is the only way to block bad bills.

Taxpayers’ money

In 2017, over 1,000 people attended a women’s march organised by Shipley Feminist Zealots. The group chose its name after Davies told a previous men’s rights conference that “feminist zealots really do want women to have their cake and eat it”.

Jude Wright of Shipley Feminist Zealots said: “Sadly, we are not surprised when it comes to Mr Philip Davies and his expenses.

“Mr Davies is claiming he is saving the taxpayer money by not employing a local person in his office, but instead, paying a London based consultant £50+ per hour for their time. We may well ask, is this the actual cost of his filibustering?”

Mandu Reid, leader of the Women’s Equality Party – which ran a candidate against Davies in the 2017 general election, in which his majority was significantly reduced, said: “The fact that a man like Davies has the power to vote on – and to block – vital legislation which could improve or even save women’s lives is deeply disturbing.”

When openDemocracy asked Davies why he paid for research from Big Ben Partnership rather than employing a staff member, he said: “If I did as you suggested the cost to the taxpayer would be far higher. £100,000 over seven years is around £14,000 a year – much less than employing someone directly. Therefore you should be commending me for saving taxpayers’ money.”

In response to further questions, Davies said: “You metropolitan left-wingers really take intolerance to new levels.”

He added: “Some people might be more bothered by a voicemail just received at my office saying: ‘I am going to fuck you over like Jo Cox,’ but don’t worry how your kind of journalism feeds into that kind of attitude.”

Big Ben Partnership has yet to respond to requests for comment.

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