Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Friends of Levitt come out to support 'Making Allowances' - and bend the truth

It's a been a little while now since Tom Levitt performed his one-man play 'Making Allowances', and it's true to say that it wasn't exactly a huge success in terms of garnering widespread attention. Whilst the BBC certainly seemed to over-indulge Levitt, what with several slots on Radio 4, plus the Politics Show piece, it was somehow fitting that the only real mainstream reaction came from the Sunday Telegraph, which can be read here.

The review is largely sympathetic, but does suggest the audience should perhaps be throwing eggs, or that he should turn it into panto ("Jack and the Beancounters").

To find reviews elsewhere, you really do have to scrape the bottom of the internet's barrel. With less than 140 characters, one finds a tweet by Martin Rosenbaum, a producer of political documentaries, who considered the play "a bit unpolished but thoughtful, amusing, well-performed, nice twist at end" (not having seen the play, we're imagining that the 'twist' doesn't involve a contrite Levitt seeking redemption via suicide).

We also have a long review by a self-declared "old friend" of Levitt, one Wiktor Moszczynski, whose blog declares that Levitt was "innocent" of the allegations levelled at him by both "reactionary and plebian (sic) accusers". We're proud to be plebs Wiktor! But perhaps you should have read this blog first? Wiktor's blog goes on to defend the vile un-seated former immigration minister, Phil Woolas, so it's clear where he's coming from.

Even worse is the comment left on the blog by a Linda Lewis, who we are reliably informed is an old friend of Levitt. She spends a large amount of time performing an Orwellian whitewash regarding Levitt's mortgage claims, suggesting the civil servants had got it wrong, and that Levitt was in the clear. Yet we all know that Levitt over-claimed for his mortgage, something he has not denied. Lewis goes on to suggest that ordinary people get treated with sympathy for fraud, and that such as Levitt got a harder time because he was an MP. Only someone who calls themselves a friend of this man could believe such nonsense.

But there we are - one hopes these rather limited reactions spell the end of the whole matter, although Levitt and his producer, Chris Mellor, are threatening to take the play on a nationwide tour. We'll be waiting if he decides to perform in the High Peak.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Levitt appears on the BBC's 'Politics Show' promoting 'Making Allowances'

You can see the recording of Tom Levitt appearing on the BBC's Politics Show, which was broadcast yesterday, above. In short order, we'll be back with some comments, as well as one or two reviews of the show we've stumbled across.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Levitt appears on Radio 4's 'PM' to promote 'Making Allowance'

Tom Levitt appeared again on Radio 4 yesterday, on their popular 'PM' evening news programme, picking up free promotion for his play 'Making Allowance'. The reporter, Becky Milligan, had blogged about her encounter with Levitt at a rehearsal prior to the audio version appearing on the show last night.

We'd be interested to know if any of our sources out there know who the character of Kevin in the play is based upon - seemingly a local Labour Party activist who confronted Levitt about his expenses. The Labour Chief Whip at the time of the expenses scandal was Nick Brown, someone who certainly bears no resemblance to the character Levitt portrays here, but is perhaps modelled on someone else.

Of future interest should be the producer of the play, a certain Chris Mellor. In last week's Advertiser and Glossop Chronicle (neither article is online), he revealed he was a former Glossop resident. His current job is Senior Arts Development Officer at Camden Council. We wonder how Camden residents would feel that the Council is putting their council tax into supporting Levitt's extreme act of vanity?

As usual, an mp3 recording of the programme segment and a full transcript can be read after the 'read more' link.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Levitt promotes 'Making Allowance' play on BBC Radio 4

After we wrote the last post, we discovered that Tom Levitt had actually appeared on BBC Radio 4's 'The World Tonight' last week to promote his forthcoming play 'Making Allowance'. We've managed to make a recording of the audio for posterity, and it can be heard along with a transcript of the interview by clicking the 'read more' button below.

During the interview, we learn that the play is to be held on two nights, Thursday 4th and Friday 5th November, with the latter date being obviously particularly appropriate - and no doubt intended by Levitt.

Predictably, Levitt labours on the poppy wreath claim - it's his usual trick to distract us from the claims for the greedy refurbishment of his flat, or the tax dodge which allowed him to pocket thousands, or even the athlete's foot-treating hairdryer. And whilst the presenter, Roger Hearing, takes him to task about the over-claim for mortgage costs, the whole sorry saga is nowhere near covered.

Levitt is clearly deeply wounded by this whole affair, to the extent that he can't help but return to the subject, and he stills feels that he has somehow been wronged. Roger Hearing is quite right to point out how disgusting this looks, at a time when millions of people are facing extreme financial hardship, redundancy, and distress.

Like we said in our last post, is there any reason why Levitt can't put on his play in his home town? We'd love to cover the play, but we're not prepared to spend money travelling down to London at short notice to heckle and give the audience more information - which we gladly do if this farce was staged closer to home.

We expect the audience will be composed largely of Levitt's peers and fellow MPs, which is entirely apt, since they are probably the only group of people who will have a shred of sympathy. Let's hope Levitt's 15 minutes of fame - after several months of infamy - is finally up.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Levitt's expenses play 'Making Allowance' to be staged in London

You may remember that back in March of this year, the Telegraph featured a story about Tom Levitt's plans for a radio play about the expenses scandal. We've heard nothing since.

But we've been passed news that the play has been converted to the stage. This press release popped into our inbox the other day, and here's the text:
Notes on a scandal
Meanwhile, a former Labour MP who stepped down at the last election is now trying his hand at a bit of theatre.
Tom Levitt served as MP for High Peak from 1997 to 2009 and was caught up in the MPs’ expenses scandal - accused of claiming for a mortgage, a fitted kitchen and a poppy wreath.
He has now decided to tell his own version of events by putting pen to paper and creating a play, Making Allowance, in which he will also star. It is being staged for two nights at the New Diorama Theatre in central London and promises to reveal the “fascinating and revelatory tale behind one of the most infamous chapters in recent British Parliamentary history”.
Yes, you read that right - Levitt is planning to star in the play. Will there be a part for his wife Teresa? A look at the theatre's website shows that the play has yet to appear in their schedule - though there is a play called 'The Robbers' which would surely be a more appropriate title.

We're keen to hear from anyone who is willing and able to attend and provide a review for the site.

Of course, the question needs to be asked - why is Levitt not staging this play in venues in his former constituency? We're sure the people of High Peak would give him an appropriate welcome at the Buxton Opera House or the Partington Theatre.

Months later, and Levitt is milking his notoriety of this whole affair...

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Tom Levitt's new business venture

Well it seems that Tom Levitt certainly isn't letting the grass grow under his feet, and news has reached us that he has already set up his own company. Indeed, he's announced it on his linkedin page* (emphasis added):
Building on my considerable experience of the third/voluntary sector in UK I am in the process of setting up a consultancy on third sector/private sector partnerships: Sector 4 Focus.
Brief details of the company can be found here, and it seems that the company has been registered by a North London firm of accountants. A quick trip to the library look at the records held by Bureau van Dijk on the company shows that both Tom and Teresa Marta Levitt are the directors, and that the company was created on 2nd March 2010. A domain name has been registered on the same date by Tom Levitt.

Now it seems that Levitt's timing may be spot on. Looming deep cuts to the public sector will used as an opportunity to hive off the work of said sector to the voluntary sector. It's something which New Labour facilitated, and the Tories have talked about vastly expanding. Levitt has seen an opportunity to rake in consultancy fees.

There's a lot more background to this story, and it's something we'll no doubt explore before too long.

* - his page still mistakenly describes him as an MP

Monday, 10 May 2010

Helpful edits to Tom Levitt's Wikipedia page

Having this weekend seen an article in the Telegraph about how the Wikipedia pages of certain MPs appear to be being edited by individuals with House of Commons IP addresses, we thought we'd pop along to Tom Levitt's page to see what we could find.

Well, it seems that over the past few months there have been several tit-for-tat edits and re-edits, mainly surrounding the issue of Levitt's expenses. A series of edits caught our eye.

30th October 2009 - removal of a link to the Tom Levitt's Expenses blog

16th November 2009 - removal of a section linking the Levitt expenses furore to his decision to stand down as an MP

20th April 2010 - editing of another section about Levitt's expenses - compare these two paragraphs (changes in bold):

In Late 2009 towards the end of the furore over MP's expenses, it was revealed Mr Levitt had attempted to claim for a memorial wreath. This caused outrage in the High Peak area. He late repaid this money.
In 2009 during the furore over MP's expenses, it was revealed Mr Levitt had on one occasion inadvertently submitted a claim for a memorial wreath. This caused outrage in the High Peak press even though he had never actually received any money.

10th May 2010 (today!) - editing the amended expenses section again, adding 'inadvertently' once more and removing the following text:
Questions do remain, however, over the non-payment of [[capital gains tax]] on the sale of Mr Levitt's second home in London, and the use of taxpayers' money for a new bathroom, also in London.
The same editor also peevishly removed all traces of Levitt's successor as MP, Andrew Bingham, from the sections of the page about the post of High Peak MP.

So who made all of these edits? Well, it seems that we can't discover the IP address so easily, but helpfully, the editor has decided to choose a username which possibly points to a culprit - 'Teresamarta'. Tom's wife is called Teresa, and a search on Google yields links to pages here and here which show Mrs Levitt's middle initial is 'M' and the name is Marta (name highlighted).

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Levitt marked as '100% authoritarian' on Lib Dem Voice

The Liberal Democrat website 'Lib Dem Voice' has set up a ranking system for all MPs which assesses how authoritarian they are based upon their voting patterns for key legislation over the last 5 years. The categories are below:

Freedom of Speech, ID Cards, 90 days detention, Abolition of Parliament Bill, Trial without a Jury, MPs' Expenses (FOI exemption), Control Orders, Extradition Act 2003, Government intervention in collection of evidence, DNA database

You can find the results page for Tom Levitt here. In all of these 10 categories, Tom Levitt scores 10, giving him a score of 100, the maximum possible.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Levitt writes to Private Eye

Apart from the press release he published after the Private Eye/Nestlé story, Tom Levitt has written to the satirical magazine, and they published the letter in the latest edition (Eye 1257). It reads as follows:

HP Source

So, that Tom Levitt is to jump into the Nestlé nest when he leaves parliament (HP Sauce, Eye 1256). Pints of Buxton Water and four-fingered fair trade Kit Kats all round?

When do you think they will tell me about it?

Keep up the Good work.


At this stage, it's all at the level of a joke between friends, but I suppose we'll see.

In the meantime, there's another story which has links to Levitt which has been in and out of Private Eye over the past few weeks, and we'll be back in due course to cast a glance over that.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Levitt denies he has post-election job at Nestlé

Following a story in the latest Private Eye, Tom Levitt MP has issued a denial* that following the General Election he plans to become a paid adviser for Nestlé. The Private Eye story ran as follows:
Tom Levitt, Labour MP for High Peak, is standing down at the next election - no doubt to the relief of colleagues who were often bemused by his defence of Nestlé, the food giant frequently attacked for its baby milk marketing practices.

Levitt even went on a Nestlé-funded trip to South Africa, returning full of praise for his hosts and even quoting Nestle's own PR on his blog to refute activists' charges.

Announcing his decision not to stand for re-election, Levitt said: "I would like to spend more time with my wife, our children and grandchildren. I would also like to do something different in the work environment." How fortunate that one of the roles that will help the transition to his "new work environment" will be... as a paid adviser to Nestlé!
Levitt issued his own response as a press release, which is below:
"Over the years I have been a guest of Nestlé at Wimbledon, at a cricket test match and on a visit to South Africa in 2008 to look at Corporate Social Responsibility, all properly recorded in the Register of Members' Interests. Nestlé is the owner of Buxton Water, an important local employer and an iconic brand of the High Peak area. It is right for the MP to have close relations with important local companies.

"I have no firm plans yet for what I shall be doing in the work environment after the election - though I have some irons in the fire - but the post of "paid advisor to Nestlé" is news to me.

"I am not aware of any MP colleague who has been "bemused" in the way the story suggests. The "practices" to which the story refers took place 30 to 40 years ago and I now believe that Nestlé is amongst the most ethical of traders in this field."
Now the history of Levitt's involvement with Nestlé is long, and there is plenty to be found on the internet which I'm sure we will look at in future. But a little bit of research suggests there's perhaps more to Levitt's "close relations" with this "important local company" (Levitt speak for multinational corporation with a plant in High Peak) than he's letting on.

Firstly, there's the All-Party British-Swiss Parliamentary Group. As the name suggests, it's a cosy little organisation that spans all sides of the House of Commons, concerned with matters of trade and commerce. Tom Levitt is the Vice Chair (he used to be the Chair), and the current Chair is a Charles Hendry - those who are either too young or who have short memories will remember that he was the Tory MP for High Peak prior to Levitt's election in 1997.

Tom Levitt has also booked rooms in the House of Commons** for the British Swiss Chamber of Commerce (BSCC) on a number of occasions, this being revealed in the last rash of expenses data.

And this article from the Times in 2006 revealed that Levitt was amongst a number of other MPs having jolly skiing holiday in Davos under the name of the All-Party Parliamentary Ski week, which is linked to the BSCC.

Now people with more time on their hands than us can probably pick the bones out of that brief trawl of the internet. But the suggestion here is that making the right connections using the time politicians are paid to be working for constituents may pay off for themselves later, if it hasn't already.

There's surely more dirt to dig, and this is just the start of it.

*when this link no longer works, try this screengrab
** - opens PDF. See pages 102 & 103 for the full list of rooms booked by Levitt.