Yorkshire Tory candidate MP Philip Davies spent more than £100,000 of taxpayers’ money on research from a little-known consultancy run by an anti-political correctness campaigner, according to a political website.
In an investigation by the news website openDemocracy opposition politicians and campaigners have asked why Mr Davies - who is defending a majority of over 4,000 in Shipley - used public funds to purchase research from a London-based consultancy called the Big Ben Partnership.
The Big Ben Partnership is run by the co-founder of the Campaign Against Political Correctness. The only public reference to the consultancy’s work appears to be a citation in a men’s rights publication.
But Mr Davies said if he hired a researcher for his office, the cost to the taxpayer would be far higher. He said: “£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 taxpayer’s money.”
OpenDemocracy found, through Freedom of Information Act requests to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), that Mr Davies has spent more than £100,000 on external research from the Big Ben Partnership from his MPs’ expenses since 2012.
The vast majority of MPs pay their researchers directly and IPSA said Mr Davies’ practice was “not necessarily wrong”, however they did ask in October last year for him to provide "a detailed breakdown of all work and activities carried out”.
Mr Davies says that the money was spent on speech writing and research for parliamentary questions and amendments for bills.
He said: “Big Ben Partnership do huge amounts of research for me every week - and is thereby hugely cost effective - and therefore by definition it is impossible to give a list for you.
“It includes general research, speech writing and research for parliamentary questions and amendments for Bills - i.e. exactly what a staffing budget is intended for to help an MP with.”
He added: “IPSA has been provided with all the information they have requested about the research carried out by the Big Ben Partnership.”
OpenDemocracy says that Mr Davies appeared to be the Big Ben Partnership's only client.
The consultancy does not seem to be registered with Companies House and the phone number listed on its website is disconnected.
But the MP confirmed to openDemocracy that work for him was carried out by Laura Midgely, a co-founder of the Campaign Against Political Correctness in 2005 with her husband John.
The pair previously worked with Mr 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.
Mr Davis said Ms Midgely has a parliamentary pass by virtue of her work for the MP, and Mr Davies has been listed as the “parliamentary spokesman” for the Campaign Against Political Correctness.
The only reference openDemocracy could find to Big Ben Partnership research is a men’s rights newsletter reporting Mr Davies’ 2016 claims that men were unfairly treated in the justice system compared to women.
The Labour candidate in Shipley Jo Pike said: “Mr Davies' constituents will be rightly asking why their hard earned taxes are being used in this way. Of course parliamentary researchers are used by MPs, but employing a company like this is quite unusual.”
Mr Davies - who sat on Parliament’s Women and Equalities Committee – has previously been criticised for his stance on equality issues. He blocked legislation to ban upskirting, saying that many women want “equality but only when it suits” and asking a leading equalities campaigner “why is it so offensive to black up.”
When asked further questions about the arrangement with the Big Ben Partnership Mr, Davies accused openDemocracy of inciting violence.
According to openDemocracy, he told them: “Some people might be more bothered by a voicemail just received at my office saying ‘I am going to f*** you over like Jo Cox’ but don’t worry how your kind of journalism feeds into that kind of attitude.”
In 2017, over 1,000 people attended a women’s march organised by Shipley Feminist Zealots. Mr Davies had 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: “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.”
The Big Ben Partnership has yet to respond to requests for comment.