Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Sunday 10 May 2009

Expense fiddling and the little tricks MPs play

It's been most amusing reading the revelations appearing in the Telegraph these past few days about how our MPs spend our money, supposedly on 'our behalf'. MPs fought tooth and nail to keep details of their expenses secret and it wasn't until the Speaker [of the House of Commons] lost a court case that MPs realised the game was up. The details are due to be published officially in a couple of months time (safely after the European elections and when Parliament is in recess for the summer, of course) and there have been rumours for weeks that 'unredacted' (i.e. complete and 'uncensored') lists were being hawked around the press. Whatever. A few days ago the Telegraph newspaper published details of expenses claims of senior Cabinet members although it has refused to discuss how it came by the lists. Although there has been much huffing and puffing today from government ministers, there have been no allegations that any of what the Telegraph has published is not in accordance with the actualité (as the late Alan Clark might have put it), even if there have been some claims that individual expenses have been 'misinterepreted'; well, they would say that, wouldn't they? This brief video sums up very wittily what has been going on (I'll observe only that the potential accusation of anti-semitism inherent in the soundtrack used has been noted and considered worthwhile to risk in the circumstances):

I have neither the time nor the inclination [any more] to write multiple posts daily on this matter; when I first began blogging 7 years ago I probably would have done so, but there are now so many bloggers writing copiously and well on this and other matters that I am content to leave the vast bulk of this necessary chronicling of events to others and instead content myself with occasional observations on some of these matters and on a few other more quirky topics that come to my attention, but that others mainly haven't bothered with or been aware of. This time I'll content myself with including below a list of links to various of the Telegraph's articles on MP expenses over the past few days; it is clear that some of the 'revelations' are much more serious (and evidence a level of corruption much deeper) than others and that a few of the facts so far revealed would seem to suggest that for the MPs concerned their political careers should, in any sane and just world, be over. So far the main spotlight has been turned on the Labour Party, with a few Conservative MPs and Sinn Fein MPs coming under scrutiny too, but I've no doubt that the Conservatives, LibDems and others will receive their due attention in coming days, or at least I certainly hope they do.

My Telegraph list of links:
(First published: 7 May 2009)
MPs' expenses: how Brown and his Cabinet exploit expenses system
(First published: 8 May 2009)
Expenses: How MP's expenses became a hot topic
MPs' expenses: how Gordon Brown and his Cabinet exploit expenses system
MPs' expenses: Gordon Brown forced to defend allowances system
Harriet Harman forced to defend MPs' expenses
MPs' expenses: Gordon Brown cleaning contract
Charles Clarke demands immediate publication of MPs' claims
MPs' expenses: 'lack of moral leadership' revealed by politicians
Gordon Brown blames expenses row on 'the system'
MPs' expenses: Commons authorities ask police to investigate leak
Gordon Brown refuses to defend Cabinet ministers over MPs' expenses
Tony McNulty could face police investigation over MPs' expenses
Barbara Follett: Millionaire MP's £25,000 expenses on security over safety fears
MPs' expenses: Four ministers who milked the system
MPs’ expenses: MPs condemn parliamentary move to call in police over leaked expenses
Phil Hope: How did he fit all this into one tiny flat?
MPs expenses: The best of the begging letters
Immigration Minister claimed for women's clothing and panty liners
MPs’ expenses: Police consider whether to hunt source of leaks
(First published: 9 May 2009)
MPs’ expenses: Ministers have presided over 'scandals of shamelessness'
Harriet Harman: Deputy leader unable to claim second home cash
Gordon Brown: Cleaning cash for brother was legitimate
MPs’ expenses: Few checks on the honourable members
MPs expenses: Questions and answers
MPs’ expenses: 'Publication is defining moment of sorry saga'
Keith Vaz: £75,000 for a flat 12 miles from home
Vera Baird: Solicitor General tried to claim cost of Christmas tree and decorations
MPs expenses: Michael Martin's four-year battle to keep the details secret
Ben Bradshaw: Mortgage bill paid on home part-owned by boyfriend (* - see at end)
Margaret Moran: Second home 'flip' paid £22,500 dry rot bill: MPs' expenses
Barry Gardiner: £198,500 profit from a flat renovated with MPs' expenses
Alex Salmond claimed £800 for food on MPs' expenses during recess
MPs' expenses: minister Kitty Ussher used allowances for £20,000 house make-over
MPs' expenses: Sinn Fein claimed £500,000 for second homes
John Reid claimed for a pouffe and a glittery loo seat on MPs' expenses
(First published: 10 May 2009)
Iain Wright and Tom Watson lavish £100,000 on shared central London flat on MPs' expenses
Kevin Brennan had £450 for television delivered to family home on MPs' expenses
MPs' expenses: Lord Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury, condemns 'culture of abuse'

A few comments:
- note how a very early reaction was for the 'Parliamentary authorities' to call in the police to try and find the 'leaks', so outraged were they that a light had been shone on their corrupt 'shenanigans'
- quickly followed by a rather less knee-jerk reaction when some MPs realise that the public reaction is fury, mingled with derisive laughter, at their initial squeals condemning the Telegraph;
- the 'Dear leader' quickly tries to distance himself from the goings-on amongst his 'underlings'. True leadership indeed!
- the bald-faced effrontery of some of the claims and attempts to justify them stretches credulity way beyond reasonable limits;

(*) - there have been some comments in the media today that this story may reflect some kind of 'homophobic' prejudice on the part of the Telegraph; my own view is that whilst the copy-writer has given the piece a title with somewhat unpleasant overtones in this respect no doubt for pithiness and to catch the eye, the way the article is written is not in any way 'homophobic'.


  1. I am of an age to find myself nearly speechless at the whole farrago. I worked for all my life in the public sector - nationalised industry and local government and the ethos was it's public money we have a duty to be frugal with it. So in claiming expenses the key was a strong scrutiny and an expectation that any reibursement had to be of modest and reasonable additional expenditure actually and necessarily incurred and there was no give in the expenses clerk!

    It seems to me that we have a majority of MPs who believe that ethics is a large county north east of London. I really cannot believe what some of them are reported as claiming - my pride wouldn't let me put most of these things through. My take is that clearly these gentry have no shame and the voters will know what to do with them when the time comes. Unfortunately some of the good will go down with the bad.

    What does beggar belief is that all this is tax free. I am quite clear that the dispensation MPs voted themselves should be rescinded and HMRC chase them for 5years' back tax.

  2. I don't wish to be contentious, Richard T, but I never worked in public service and have, as a taxpayer, a somewhat jaundiced view of any thing associated with public service - that's not to say I readily accept that many who spent their lives in public service were honest and conscientious, but I think the lack of exposure to commercial imperatives leads much of the public service to be 'flabby' and not providing particularly good value for money.

    Personally I find the 'per diem' expenses claimed by the members of the HoL (or MEPs) to be similarly indefensible; expenses should be paid only against actual expenditure and allowed or not allowed depending on whether they meet the criteria set.

    As for the current MP expenses controversy, I very much doubt that these practices were unknown in earlier times, specially before even the somewhat weak FoI we have now was legislated into being.

    I would rather pay MPs a rather higher salary, but the price for that would be the abolition of most of the categories of reimbursable expenses high-lighted recently in the 'scandal'.


Welcome to my comment area. Whilst all comment is welcome you are requested to respect the views of others. To read full terms for use of this facility, please visit my 'Terms of Use' section, linked to under the 'About this Blog' heading at top right of the blog. Note added 12JUL2010 - All comments will now be pre-moderated before they appear in this blog; this is a measure to prevent 'spam' commenting, which has become frequent of late. Thank you.