United Kingdom

PM is reviewing role of toothless Whitehall watchdog Acoba

There's a sneaky plot afoot to knacker a watchdog already lacking any bark or bite, I can reveal.

The Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba) – known here as the Advisers for Cashing-In and Brazen Avarice – has gained an unhealthy reputation for rubber-stamping departing Ministers' new paydays as they sell their inside knowledge to the private sector. 

But now the Cabinet Office, which supports the Prime Minister and his Ministers, is reviewing its role.

The Cabinet Office, which supports the Prime Minister and his Ministers, is reviewing the role of the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba)

It's hard to think of lighter-touch regulation than Acoba's. 

Its only weapon is to publish correspondence with Ministers on its website. It can't order them not to take post-Government jobs, and concerns over lobbying are usually ignored.

Worse, former Ministers often wave Acoba letters as proof that the new job, however dubious, was officially signed off. 

Acoba's defenders claim its published letters shine a light on the revolving door between Government and business. But it doesn't always get that right.

Take, for example, Nikki Da Costa, a former lobbyist for the outsourcing giant Serco who became director of legislative affairs in Downing Street. 

After informing Acoba before taking a job with lobbyists Cicero in early 2019, the regulator spelt out its concerns in a letter… that it forgot to publish because of staffing issues. 

The Cabinet Office – the same gang that runs a blacklist of journalists making 'awkward' Freedom of Information requests across Government – is not about to make Acoba more effective

By the time the error was discovered, Da Costa had returned to her old job in Downing Street. 

The Cabinet Office – the same gang that runs a blacklist of journalists making 'awkward' Freedom of Information requests across Government – is not about to make Acoba more effective.

Reading the small print, I notice one of the aims of the review is to see whether a 'lighter-touch regime is appropriate' for certain appointments. 

Meanwhile, the revolving door keeps spinning.

Electric shocker for Ed

Ed Miliband, who notoriously once made a meal of eating 'normal' food, has now reversed into a ditch over his use of electric cars

The spectre of the bacon sandwich is once again haunting Ed Miliband. 

The former Labour leader, who notoriously once made a meal of eating 'normal' food, has now reversed into a ditch over his use of electric cars. 

The Doncaster North MP was initially mocked for calling for 'an electric car revolution', before admitting he didn't drive one himself. 

This month, in the Evening Standard, Miliband revealed he was 'trying out' an electric Renault Zoe. Cue outrage from both Tory and Labour colleagues who've got in touch wondering why the Shadow Business Secretary didn't choose a British car.

Asked if he owned the car, Miliband kept mum.

This week's 'nothing to see here' award goes to Mike Freer, Tory MP for Finchley and Golders Green, who appears to have tired of the cladding scandal. 

When a constituent emailed to say she faces a hefty bill because her block of flats doesn't qualify for Government money, he replied: 'The issue has been well aired and exhausted in Parliament and I do not believe there are further avenues to be explored.'

Just the sort of reply you'd expect from someone with three rental properties that return more than £30,000 in extra annual income on top of his £82,000 parliamentary salary.

Roman Abramovich, billionaire Russian owner of Chelsea FC, is willing to spend bundles suing journalist Catherine Belton over her book Putin's People, which the oligarch says wrongly claims he bought the London club in 2003 on Vlad's orders.

In a rare statement to the press on the libel action, which has seen a pile-on by other oligarchs also mentioned in the book, Abramovich said his mission was 'to ensure [Chelsea] plays a positive role in all of its communities'.

He could start by cleaning up the damage caused after Chelsea won the Champions League last month, when the statue of Winston Churchill in Parliament Square was defaced with graffiti saying 'Chelsea' and 'CFC'. 

Newly released records show the clean-up bill – met by London taxpayers – came to £640, around the hourly rate for Abramovich's libel barrister.

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