By Tim Montgomerie
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Buried beneath the Jubilee coverage is continuing controversy about Sayeeda Warsi. Last week's Sunday newspapers contained allegations that she took expenses from the House of Lords for overnight accommodation bills but that the money for that accommodation never reached the individual who was her effective landlord. Stressing her innocence Baroness Warsi has referred herself to the appropriate Lords authorities so that the matter can be fully investigated but a Labour MP has reported her to the police.
In the last couple of days there have been fresh accusations that the Tory Chairman and Cabinet Office minister took a business partner with her on a foreign trip without fully declaring her connection to that businessman.
In a letter to the Prime Minister yesterday Baroness Warsi has apologised:
"I sincerely regret that I did not consider the significance of this relationship with Mr Hussain when the arrangements for the visit were being made. In retrospect, I accept that I should have made officials aware of the business relationship between Mr Hussain and myself, and for this I am sorry. I regret that this failure may have caused embarrassment to the Government."
Mr Cameron has referred the matter to Alex Allan, his adviser on Ministers' interests, "to consider the issues that have been raised with respect to the Ministerial Code".
Nadine Dorries MP has told the Financial Times that “she is probably completely innocent, but she should step aside while the investigation takes place". "When she is found innocent," Ms Dorries continues, "David Cameron should provide his full support and reinstate her.”
Speaking on Five Live this morning another Tory MP Louise Mensch argued that the Tory Chairman appears to be guilty of no more than an "oversight" with no cost to the taxpayer or financial benefit to Warsi involved. She does not expect Mr Allan to come down on her particularly hard. She also resisted comparisons with Jeremy Hunt's conduct, declaring that the Culture Secretary clearly had not broken the ministerial code but that Baroness Warsi had a minor case to answer.
The Telegraph accuses David Cameron of "double standards" over Hunt v Warsi but it also endorses the contribution of the Tory Chairman to the Government:
"Lady Warsi, she seems to be deemed dispensable by Downing Street. She has also been subjected to a distasteful whispering campaign about her abilities by some Tory MPs. This could prove counter-productive. In the words of our own correspondent in Islamabad, she is a “heroine” to many in Pakistan because she has shown how far a talented woman can advance in the political world. More importantly, she has also provided an important link to a government that is in danger of turning its back on the West."
Whether Baroness Warsi survives as a frontbencher only time will tell but she is almost certain not to stay as Tory Chairman but for reasons un-related to the current controversies and for reasons frequently discussed on these pages. Interestingly the latest ConHome survey of the Tory grassroots finds a modest recovery in her popularity. The survey, albeit taken before the Sunday newspaper allegations, may owe something to another round of her famous plain-speaking – this time with regard to the Rochdale grooming scandal.
Final word to James Chapman, the Political Editor of the Daily Mail. He Tweeted this yesterday: