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"Greenwash Electioneering" row escalates as LibDem candidate refers Ghani to MPs' Standards Office

October 22, 2019 11:41 AM

Near identicle pamphlets by Tory MPs Nus Ghani, Robert Courts, Vicky Ford & Tim LoughtonWealden's MP Nus Ghani has been referred to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) by Chris Bowers, her leading opponent at the forthcoming general election, in the growing row over a leaflet the Liberal Democrats have described as 'greenwash electioneering'.

Several constituents have contacted Ms Ghani's parliamentary office to find out more about a leaflet they'd received entitled 'Your Guide to Going Green', which the MP claims to have written, and which states was funded with money from her parliamentary allowances. Bowers says that this is likely a misuse of taxpayers' money - on top of their salary, MPs are allowed to claim a number of tax-free allowances. This includes a communications allowance to help MPs inform their constituents about their work, however it cannot be used for party political purposes. This is at the centre of the Lib Dems' complaint and was previously covered in an article on this website and in an article by the Kent-Sussex Courier newspaper (pictured below). October 18, 2019 article in the Kent-Sussex Courier Chris Bowers speaking at a packed local members' meeting in Uckfield, Oct 5 2019

With at least one constituent having had no response at all from Ms Ghani's office after a week, the Lib Dem candidate for Wealden has now asked IPSA, the body that oversees MPs' conduct, to rule on whether Ms Ghani used her allowances correctly.

"Nus Ghani's failure to respond to a constituent's enquiry is unfortunately par for the course," Bowers said. "I've worked with the former Lewes MP Norman Baker, who ensured that everyone who contacted him got a reply, yet it's easy to find plenty of Wealden residents who say they have contacted their MP and heard absolutely nothing.

"But this is bigger than that, and actually somewhat farcical. On page 2 of this leaflet, Ms Ghani says 'I've written a short guide to help you protect our environment' - yet we have found at least four other MPs who have published exactly the same leaflet with exactly the same words, and just a couple of local pictures slotted in. It's clearly taken a lot of Tory MPs to write this leaflet!"

In his letter referring Ms Ghani to IPSA, Bowers says "I contend that the leaflet is a form of electioneering that has nothing to do with informing constituents about Ms Ghani's work."

In another comical twist to the story, Bowers includes in his complaint to IPSA the screenshot of a tweet from a woman who wrote "Brilliant to receive this through the letter box today! @Nus_Ghani truly doesn't stop working hard for her constituents in Wealden. #VoteBlueGoGreen." But a bit of simple research by the Lib Dems unearthed the fact that the tweet's author lives in London and works for an organisation calling itself "Climate Tories" which purports to fight for climate change "from a green capitalist viewpoint". Tweet by

Bowers added, "Either Nus Ghani has been delivering outside her constituency, or this leaflet was meant as blatant electioneering, promoted by Conservatives in other parts of the country simultaneously. I've asked IPSA to find out who has funded this, not just for Ms Ghani but for all the other Tory MPs who have used this central template, with each claiming to have written it by her/himself for the benefit of her/his local constituents only.

"The timing in the run-up to a general election is suspicious enough, but it is additionally suspicious because Ms Ghani has a terrible record in voting against environmental legislation. In a recent Guardian survey of how MPs voted on six pieces of climate legislation, Nus Ghani voted against on all six." Nus Ghani's climate voting record is zero - the lowest possible

Chris Bowers was the founder of the Environmental Transport Association in 1990, works for the European Federation for Transport and Environment, and was a key figure in the Liberal Democrats' revised climate policy that was approved at the party's conference last month. He also recently authored a chapter on inequality and climate change for a new book titled "The Wolves in the Forest - Tackling Inequality in the 21st Century" published by the Social Liberal Forum. Chris Bowers has authored a chapter of this new book

Meanwhile, the 12-page leaflet in question "Your Guide to Going Green by Nus Ghani MP" has gone out in Crowborough, Hailsham, Uckfield and across the Wealden constituency. Rather ironically, it contains no assurance that it has been printed on recycled or Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) paper.