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An equality of shame?

Nick Robinson | 17:41 UK time, Thursday, 21 May 2009

The relentless quantity, speed and complexity of the revelations about MPs' expenses have, between then, tended to produce a kind of "equality of shame".

Sir Anthony SteenThat said, it would be impossible - as well as invidious - for me to draw up some sort of league of shame, though those putting in claims for money they hadn't actually spent would surely top the list.

I'm struck by how it is often not the amount claimed, but the list of items claimed for that has caused the greatest outrage - whether trivial (bath plugs or dog food) or extravagant (moats and duck islands). My colleague Stephanie Flanders has written more about this in a post called Count it, don't follow it.

This led the retiring Tory grandee Anthony Steen - who under-claimed his allowance but did claim for a forester to tend to 500 trees - complaining that he'd suffered for being too transparent, and that he would have been spared a lot of grief if he'd simply claimed thousands of pounds in mortgage interest (as, say, his leader has done).

The very presence of an MP's name in the paper or face on a screen can lead to an assumption of guilt even if no guilt is proved. This is producing near despair amongst some in the Commons who are beginning to question why they and their families should suffer the pain and humiliation of public exposure when they weren't doing anything wrong. (See also Martin Rosenbaum's post The state of FOI.)

However, MPs who have held public meetings or given interviews and explained their claims have found that after the initial exposure of anger, they get a fair hearing.

I am going to be away for the next few days of revelations.

It will be interesting to see whether people will begin to distinguish between those who claimed for what they needed to live in two different places to serve their constituents, the careless, the greedy and the outright offenders.

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    This is the same sort of GUILT by ASSOCIATION that plagues many of our system and institution such as the IN-FAMOUS family courts where as a father you are percieved as GUITLY before you start.

    Like in the Family courts there has to be a better way of Judging the wronging doing a scale, as it seems that those with the smallest wrong doing are punished the most and those with the greatest as still in post and often in the cabinet.

    Therefore it is important to have a league table of offences to address any punishemt. If I'm late with my tax return its a £100 fine and interest on the owing and maybe futher actions too, so some whom have avoid CGT (that this lost changed again) should face the police , tax and also the electorate.

  • Comment number 2.

    "Equality of shame" maybe but interesting that out of all the MPs you could have chosen, the only name you've shamed is a Tory.

    It's how the leaders deal with it which voters will use as the yardstick come election judgement day.

    Brown's promise of a crack-down on his greedy MPs with show-trials is already having a hollow ring to it.

    But he's caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. It's hard to see who'd be left in his cabinet if he really put our money where his mouth is. 

    I can't help feeling Brown is lovin' it, playing up the "chaos", playing a petty political game of brinkmanship with Cameron and now playing the only soiled card he has left - the economy. But will voters be taken in by the sham?

    http://theorangepartyblog.blogspot.com/2009/05/is-brown-lovin-it.html

  • Comment number 3.

    I think that Mr Cameron has it about right. A quiet word in the ear followed by an announcement that the miscreant will not be standing at the next election. Thereby weeding out those with a potential case to answer. I did think that Mr Brown had missed a trick, however I have just heard that Ben Chapman is to stand down. Are Labour finally getting it?

    By the way I am not advocating that the MPs who have broken the law should get away with their crime. I will be more than happy to see law breakers from whatever party having to defend themselves in court. At least they won't be representing us in Parliament at the time

  • Comment number 4.

    Is Speaker Martin a scapegoat the real question....?

    Did he spend more days in home in glasgow then home is parliament, if yes then why set grace and favour as main home, and claim for second ????

    Just how much did he claim - over and above... £3.77 for tea for a guest.

    Why not research this and find the truth... ?

    Did he change rules to favour the rich ?

    Did he lead to more millionares on labour cabinet ??

    how many are there - 19 in shadow (tory) who cares - they toffs ?

    But how many socialist millionaires....

    Hoon with million pound house portfolio ????

    is this not the real story ?

    enjoy hols - but come back and scalp some MP's its your job.

    It why we pay for you.

  • Comment number 5.

    Where are the names of Hoon, Purnell , bliars Balls and Cooper

    As House flipping in an active way of defauding the treasury of taxs and milking the system too.

    all the minor issues were raised in your blog but not HOUSE FLIPPING.

    has this something to do with the Tories wanting to cut the BBC licence fee maybe ?


    Mate I'm struck by the fact that you have skipped the light fandango over the major abuses and gone for the minows

  • Comment number 6.

    Good evening Nick,

    may I say that I think that you have hit the nail right on the head. My problem is that, I think, Hoon says that he not only complied with the rules but also that before putting a falt down as his main residence that he checked with his accountants. This is what concerns me.

    Surely the accountants should be questioned as to what they think they are doing. Accountants I hold as being partly responsible for the banking collapse because surely they audited the banks and signed off the accounts, confirming that any valuation of assets were true and fair. Now I think more enquiries ought to be made as to the proberty of some of these accountants. For example, did Darling take advice before he swopped his homes.

    I find this whole episode as being contemptible, of course there must be an urgent general election. When labour gets absolutely consigned to history at the upcoming elections I hope that Brown will not say that the votes cast were in respect of the period up to today, and that this is a new beginning, that the stables have been cleaned. I suggest that people do read a little book by John Locke, Two Treatises of Government, they may learn that some things have gone back-wards. Where are the Chartists when we need them.

  • Comment number 7.

    I dont have a particular axe to grind about the expenses carnival and know little about Michael Martin, but I do know when Im being scammed. The smoke, noise and hyperexagerated disgust and indignation directed at Michael Martin the individual is working, following well used tactics, to deflect attention away from the significant facts (including those put forward by the man himself).

    1. The data protection compliant versions of the expenses claims were due for imminent official release in any event.
    2. Once officially available their potential to be exploited for partisan party purposes, as well for commercial gain, would have been lost.
    3. The Opposition mole in the expenses office was not acting as a whistleblower (see point 1).
    4. The leak being to the Telegraph alone indicates the motives for the act political and/or pecuniary.
    5. The subsequent publication strategy tells us that it was not a public interest event but a party political assault by people very skilled at news manipulation - days of saturation, personalised blitz of Governing Party individuals with microscopic anodyne statements about the Oppositions 'coming soon', until the public indignation had been exhausted on the Governing Party.
    6. All snouts had been in the expenses trough since the Thatcher era. Sanctimonious cant about the responsibility of the current government is hypocrisy.
    7. Proclamations that we need a General Election to restore public faith are likewise meaningless. Who would we vote for who hasnt already been part of this system for decades? The Conservatives? Do me a favour.
    8. We are supposed to have Rule of Law. Parliament is the creator and custodian of this Law. The mole who rushed out the information while there was still time to make something out of it for himself, the Telegraph and the Opposition was breaking the law in the heart of our law making machinery.
    9. People whom we put there to make these laws have vilified and hounded someone (MM), no matter what one might think of him as a person, for pointing out that the perpetrator should be identified and held to account. These people are saying to us that some folk and some institutions are above the very laws that give their own position any meaning.
    10. While all of this was going on I continually scanned the media, including the objective BBC and its news website in the expectation that someone, somewhere would point out any of these facts. Unfortunately they were all scared of being left off the witch hunt bandwagon. Im still waiting.

  • Comment number 8.

    it seems modern mp's come from a fantasy realm where they can have what they want without remorse.
    well their bubble has been burst and they are as exposed as a streaker at a cricket match.
    sadly they have to accept they have been over the top over the past few years and should now face up to their crimes or miss deeds and accept the consequences of their actions.
    stupidity or just following others is no defence and makes those using it look even thicker.
    only a full general election will remove this stench from parliment but the prime minister knows any election would see his party desimated and himself may well be unemployed, so he will avoid any election just so he can try and justify his position.
    meanwhile the population of this country must endure more suffering and hardship brought upon us by this government.

  • Comment number 9.

    The test for Misconduct in public office is whether the person has so misconducted themselves as to amount to a breach of the public's trust.

    The quoted legal guidance is Bembridge [(1738) 3 Doug KB 32]" those who hold public office carry out their duties for the benefit of the public as a whole and, if they abuse their office, there is a breach of the public's trust."

    The above is a direct quote from the CPS website. Methinks there are interesting times ahead.
    Oh yes it is an offence that carries life imprisonment as a penalty !!!!

  • Comment number 10.

    Nick I agree with you that those who have come forward with credible explanations for items that have a clear need associated with the job have had and should have a fair hearing.

    The word I don't hear bandied about much at the moment though is judgement. For example why does Anthony Steen feel it was reasonable to expect the taxpayer to fell a large number of trees for him? I don't find it good enough for him to say, and I paraphrase " If I had claimed the same amount for something else that would have been alright" . Well depending on what it was for maybe it would have been alright, but that doesn't make it alright that we should fell his trees.

    His attitude to me says that he thinks he was due some money and whatever he spent it on was up to him. He displays a total disconnect with what many of would feel is reimbursement of a reasonable necessity for doing the job.

    Others to me are at best cynical opportunists and appear potentially criminal.

    Do we really want people with such poor judgement, and potentially even worse ethics making judgements and pronouncements on policy and laws on our behalf?

    Not in my name, no.

  • Comment number 11.

    #7 point 6 how has been in gov for the last 12 years , they new they could have changed things with the majority that they had but did nothing.

    Doing nothing smacks of incompetance at the very least.

    Govs are here to govern. not stand by and blame opthers 20 years ago, that does not wash.

    bady P was on there watch there rules too, the buck will stop at the top on both accountants.

  • Comment number 12.

    "they needed to live in two different places to serve their constituents"- I think it's time to lay this sort of rubbish to rest once and for all.For some of my many years as a civil servant I was based in Leeds, but worked in central London about 3 days a week, 46 weeks a year. The other 2 days a week I worked in Leeds. I neither needed nor received a "second home" allowance, what I received was reimbursement of the receipted cost of the hotel I stayed in. Nobody really has a "second home", all these politicians have one home, where they live with their family, if they have one. They may rent or buy a place in London, but they don't move their families to London for 3 or 4 nights a week, say 25 weeks a year, then move back to their main residence the rest of the time. That is just laughable, but it is the pathetic fiction which has been created by these self-same politicians for one reason and one reason only-to allow them to claim £20k+ per annum in untaxed expenses. That's all there is to it, folks. I think Nick Robinson has been in daily contact with these politicians for so long that he actually believes their self-serving garbage about how hard working and honest they are,and how, unlike everyone else who works part of the week in London and part elsewhere (and there are many thousands)they really, really,really must have a "second home",and above all, how they, unlike anyone else who miraculously found an employer generous enough to offer a similar package, shouldn't have to pay any tax on this benefit. Come on Nick, while you are away, talk to some real people, and please stop being an apologist for the unforgivable excesses of the political classes- you are, I hope, better than that.

  • Comment number 13.

    Please don't forget Alastair Darling and his property portfolio!
    It's gone too quiet on that for my liking.
    Not to mention Mrs Brown and the flat cleaner.

  • Comment number 14.

    Call me invidious but tell me this: when does "totally unacceptable" become acceptable and how unethical does one have to be before being removed from the cabinet?

  • Comment number 15.

    Re #7 - You have it about right. I despair of this witch hunt which in most cases is completely unjustified. I dont see why claiming for a moat to be cleaned or anything else is any worse then David Cameron claiming £22,000/year in interest payments on his London home. Don't get me wrong I have nothing against DC doing this but just because someone dosn't have a second home mortgage(because they are wealthy or have family in London) why should they not be allowed to claim the equivalent cost (a 'phantom' mortgage - or cleaning a moat). Otherwise they are subsidising the Tax payer by making use of their own home in London whilst on Parliament business.



  • Comment number 16.

    Nick - something to ponder while you're on your hols: who said this?

    "MPs are not underpaid. Being an MP is a vast, subsidised ego trip. It's a job for which you need no qualifications; there are no compulsory hours of work, no performance standards. You get a warm room and subsidised meals for a bunch of self-opinionated windbags and busybodies who suddenly find people taking them seriously simply because they have the letters MP after their name.
    How can they be underpaid when there's about 200 applicants for every vacancy? You could fill every seat 20 times over even if they paid to do the job!"

    That's right, it was The Right Honourable James Hacker MP

    Now in my view the mere fact of wanting to be polititian - should bar you. The country should be run by compulsorarily selected individuals - much like jury service, only more selective - The criteria of those who are chosen should be based on temperament, intelligence, emotional suitability and common sense. The sentence would be a five years.

    Democracy is a sham anyway (See Hacker)

    Just a thought.

  • Comment number 17.

    Dontconme @ #7
    Exceptional post. Real anger and disappointment is understandable since some MP's conduct has been genuinely appalling. The synthetic froth of others, always finished off with "Call an election", is opportunistic tripe.

  • Comment number 18.

    At least the Tories are being removed from parliament by Cameron, which is more than can be said for Labour.If Brown applied the same rules as Cameron , then half of the cabinet would be removed. This of course will not happen, Brown needs all the friends he can get to keep him in office. I suspect however after Labour is wiped out in the local and EU elections these same people will hang him out to dry to try and save their own skins.Hopefully after he has been humiliated and dragged from office there will be a general election so we can get rid of the rest of his corrupt crew. His demonstration of fauning over the Ghurkas and La Lumley would have made milk curdle ; it is sad that the once great office of prime minister should be held by a man of such lowly principles.

  • Comment number 19.

    What we have not had yet is an explanation as to why this government changed the rules in 2004 that allowed MPs to, `flip,` houses. Giving our MPs, many on comparatively mediocre incomes, to suddenly become the holders of some fairly impressive property portfolios. Did not alarm bells start ringing within parliament as to why individuals, with no other outside interests, suddenly started owning property all over the place? Or was it a case of the three wise monkeys?

    Personally I am glad that the Telegraph took the risk and published this material.

    It has shown what a devious lot we have running the country; but unfortunately the good MPs, who have not abused the system, have been smeared by the many whose intention was to line their pockets.

    Yet again this has saga has played straight into the hands of the conservatives. Although many conservatives are as guilty as the rest, at least Cameron took the initiative and started sacking people.

    Brown is incredible. Blear`s conduct was regarded by him as totally unacceptable one day - the next day he has his full confidence in her and states she is the best person for the job. Two more cabinet ministers have done exactly the same as Blears; but Brown again does nothing and supports them to the the hilt. Its fairly obvious he does not want to empty his cabinet this side of the June elections. "It wouldn`t look good," being his main priority, rather than doing what is required from him to do as leader of his party. Weak leadership I call it.

    Cameron is right, Brown is a total and utter ditherer.

    Talk about chaos - we have another 12 months of this ludicrous situation. Very few people, except the ultra die hard Labour groupies are backing Brown at the moment.

    Just how many more Telegraph exposes will it take for Brown to wake up to what is going on around him and for him to call a General election.

    He has done a total u turn on the ghurkas so I suppose there is hope yet!

  • Comment number 20.

    Nick may be worried that if he is too hard with politicians over their expenses, they may take revenge in due course. Obviously the BBC can in no way be associated with extravagant salaries and eye-wateringly generous expenses.

    The MPs have collectively behaved like an untouchable mob - they should be reminded that al capone was eventually jailed for tax evasion, not murder. HMRC and Plod are clearly keeping their heads down in the hope people will forget that they have a responsibility to ACT and ACT NOW. Why on earth aren't they investigating suspected crime? There appears to be more than enough evidence to prosecute quite a large number of freeloaders of all parties.

  • Comment number 21.

    What amazes me is that these incidents are all mistakes, if i made that many mistakes at work, i'd be fired.

    However, what is also interesting is the different stance between Cameron and Brown.

    While Cameron is forcing MP's to announce retirement etc Brown is backing his ministers to the hilt.

  • Comment number 22.

    Anthony Steen, other MPs (and I suspect you, Nick) just don't get it.

    What sticks in the craw is the assumption of thse greedy MPS is that they are somehow "entitled" to large sums of extra money beyond their already fat salaries.

    They seem to think they are underpaid and work harder than the average Joe so are entitled to a lot of extra, untaxed dosh, which they can spend on whatever they want. It's complete nonsense. MPs work reasonably hard but no more so than many. And they have a very privileged lifestyle, fat pensions, £100,000 payoff when they leave the House of Commons, and very long holidays. Why do they need an extra week at Whitsun?

    And if they really think they can earn more outside, fine; they can resign and get another higher paid job! Reality might be rather different...

    Smell the coffee, the lot of you, from all parties. The British people will NOT accept this.

  • Comment number 23.

    #17 whom has been governing for the last 12 years then ? ah yeah its lady T silly me

    best call an election and get those whiter than whites in from the labour party. becuase they will change the rules in 2004 to flip houses
    that will make it much harder to fiddle expenses.

    then I woke up and labour have been in for 12 years and changes the rules in 2004 to make it easy to fiddle .

    so lets have a election for any number of reasons there is a mountain of them.

  • Comment number 24.

    It is all about the same problem. From the financial collapse to the expenditures, it is all about the adoption of a "ruling class" attitude. Total disrespect for the citizens. The "clubs", those officals in most governmental bodies, see themselves as deserving of the benefits equal to their private sector donors who keep them funded for elections. Corporate hired votes, nothing more, nothing less. The media hasn't helped in their promoting of "stars" and denigrating those who would seek office to reform the process. Everyone needs to look in the mirror.
    Not one, anywhere, has stood up and said, "I knew about this and tried to change it." Politics has become the avoidance of responsibility. We don't need new leadership, we need a different kind of leadership.

  • Comment number 25.

    not 100% on the topic, but anyone know why we have heard anything about Blair's expenses,

  • Comment number 26.

    Stephanie Flanders fungibility point is a very good one, particularly when taken together with the underlying reality here.

    Expenses are intended to provide pound for pound recompense for money spent for agreed, legitimate outlays - with no question of any gain. The reality at Westminster has been that expenses have been offered to MPs as a proxy for salary, due to successive Governments' reluctance to increase salaries in accordance with recommendations made by various bodies over time. This has led to a culture of entitlement under which so called expenses are claimed in order to boost earnings rather than recoup outlay. Rather than work back from outlays to support the expense claim, it has been more a question of working back from the entitlement to find expense related labels.

    I suspect that had MPs known the detail of expenses claimed over time would become public, they would have been more careful in coming up with the labels, rather then more modest in the amounts claimed.

    I agree that it would be unfortunate to skewer MPs who came up with stupid expense items whilst allowing off the hook others who filled their boots but were more clever in their choice of expense items/justification.

    Of course, at the extremes their will be MPs at one end who have under-claimed and at the other those who have behaved in near criminal fashion. However, the vast bulk have been playing the game as they were encouraged to play it.

    It is a bit sick-making to hear the PM declare himself shocked and angered and tell us that so too would his father have been. His father maybe, but his son of the manse very well knew the reality as did Cameron and Clegg who make similar noises of bogus indignation.

    And as for salary levels, what public reaction do they expect if we now hear that expnses are to be cleaned up but salaries hiked up ?

    Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.

  • Comment number 27.

    hi Nick,

    yes, a hierarchy of shame - absolutely agree that we need one

    ... and here's how it looks

    4 categories in ascending order of miscreancy - so, category 1 the least bad, down (the moral scale) to category 4 being the worst

    Cat 1 - Exemplary

    MPs who claimed either nothing or only truly essential out of pocket living expenses - plenty of them - a good example is Harriet Harman

    Cat 2 - Rather Dodgy

    MPs who flipped around properties for personal gain - plenty of them too - example, Mr Hoon

    Cat 3 - Extremely Reprehensible

    Independently wealthy MPs who banged in the maximum mortgage claim on expensive second homes - best example is Catch The Wind

    Cat 4 - Total Joke

    Moats

  • Comment number 28.

    awooga

    "come back and scalp some MP's its your job. It why we pay for you."

    I very much doubt if that is in Nick's job description. You seem to be enjoying the witch hunt. Tory?

  • Comment number 29.

    Can someone please explain to me the difference between what Hazel Blears has done, and that of Hoon, Purnell and Darling?
    Why is Blears' conduct 'totally unacceptable' and the others conduct OK?
    Seems like hypocracy to me. Perhaps the others didn't have a jibe at their leader's expense!
    Time for change, "that flippin' parliament" needs to be cleaned out.

  • Comment number 30.

    The attitude of the police is astounding.

    Usually they cannot wait to get involved if a member of the public is
    thought to be in breach of any aspect of the law.

    In other words the lawmakers are not subject to the laws they inpose on the rest of us. This is immoral and ensures that many of us hold the law in contempt. I would not harm anyone else but if sticking rigidly to the law proves inconvenient then tough luck.

    Those found guilty of fraud will of course still keep their pensions from the public purse. Is'nt life wonderful for the rulers, but not so grand for the ruled.

    Election please soon.

  • Comment number 31.

    con @ 7

    Proclamations that we need a General Election to restore public faith are likewise meaningless

    indeed

    and just to summarise ...

    Cameron is fine to call for an election
    Brown is right to resist
    an Election isn't due for a year
    there will be an Election in a year

  • Comment number 32.

    I think it's more complicated than that.

    The 'moral outrage' is operating at a number of different levels.

    People are angry
    1) that MPs have claimed recompense for silly things,
    2) that MPs have made clearly bad claims that they have had to repay or resign over
    3) that MPs seem to have flaunted their basic civil duty to pay tax on certain items and
    4) that MPs have failed to internally manage their system of expenses have thereby failed to prevent the whole Parliamentary system of this country being brought into disrepute.

    It's not just moral outrage at one thing.

  • Comment number 33.

    The expenses revelations have served a much more useful purpose than merely exposing the criminal fraud of a large number of MPs. Whether or not they are prosecuted, they'll mostly be ignominiously ejected by the voters at the next election.

    The larger benefit is the demonstration of how essential it now is to reform not just Parliamentary expenses - but the whole electoral system. This has been hijacked by the two main parties and turned into the means of perpetuating a corrupt political elite - which effectively denies a voice to the people.

    The best thing we can do at the moment is to press for an immediate General Election - and replace the current incumbents (most of them, I'm afraid) with men and women of decency and character. Party? Political platforms? Who cares? Just get rid of this filthy lot and put in good people. Let the cards fall in good faith where they will!

  • Comment number 34.

    Information, please! Other similarly sized European countries have parliaments and MPs; how do they arrange this second home business? Let us know if you know; I think it might give us some pointers. I suppose we'll find that their trough is even bigger, though.

  • Comment number 35.

    Nick, I guess all bloggers wish you a few good days relaxation.

    I don't suppose you'd have a word with the moderators before you go, to stop them closing down your posting for further comments? Odd how your posts tend to be "guillotined", while Robert Pestons roll on for mch longer.

    There will always be oddities in the way tax liability is applied.

    Hoon and Purnell may have "technically" met conditions laid down by HMRC. However, if they claimed expenses from the tax-payer to support a property they subsequently declare was a "first home", there is absolutely NO moral basis to their claims whatsoever.

    Anyone who sold a home which they told HMRC was a "first home" to avoid CGT should immediately repay any monies claimed from the tax-payer as though it had been their "second home".

    I'm livid that anyone could claim that certain payments were allowed as being "withinh the rules" when they were so obviously NOT. Duck platforms? As an expense "necessarily incurred to support the performance of the role of MP"?

    The Speaker has gone. Good. Now kick out everybody associated with the running and administration of the Fees Office.

    And have a test case to determine whether MPs were entitled, under UK law, to rule that their expenses and allowances would be exempt from tax. (A Bill, incidentally, introduced by Brown.) As far as I know, no such legal challenge has ever been raised. I'm sure it would raise the eyebrows of High Court judges.

    Interesting to note that the EU is getting stroppy with Lloyds Bank Group. They don't seem to like the shotgun marriage that Brown and Blank cooked up at a cocktail party. That is the worst bit of banana republic politicking I can recall for years. Both men should be ashamed to have dragged a decent bank to its knees, just to avoid Brown having to nationalise HBoS.

    Disgrace.

    I would not not encourage an immediate election. I'd like to see all the details of expenses made public. Then to see Parliament handle the recommendations from Christopher Kelly and introduce sensible rules. But I do think there should be an election in October, which would give MPs a chance to accept a new set of rules; all parties to examine the probity of the present MPs and decide on their candidates; time for a little more reality to emerge about the state of the UK economy - and time for proper consideration of policies that could dig us out of the mire.

    Personally, I'd prefer fixed-term parliaments. That would stop idiots saying that "chaos" could emerge if we had an election now.

    (How does that square with the elections of a US President, at the height of an economic catastrophe? Does Brown believe that elections just should not be allowed if the country's in a bad way? Suppose things are still grim in May 2010, will Brown still believe it would provoke "chaos" if there were elections? Well, at least I guess the army is not likely to rush back from Afghanistan to support him if he suggested an indefinite extension of his party's mandate. Thank God for that.)

  • Comment number 36.

    At 7:27pm on 21 May 2009, forest_forever_99 wrote:
    not 100% on the topic, but anyone know why we have heard anything about Blair's expenses,

    Got shredded - pure accident of course. Fees Office has apologised.

  • Comment number 37.

    #25

    As I understand it, Blair's expenses papers were all shredded when he left office.

  • Comment number 38.

    Ops here goes another one - Sky are reporting that MP Ian Gibson is offering to stand down at the next election over the expenses scandals. Be no one left sooon!!

  • Comment number 39.

    "However, MPs who have held public meetings or given interviews and explained their claims have found that after the initial exposure of anger, they get a fair hearing."

    I've been trying to say much the same thing here and elsewhere (without much success), the deed is not in the headlines but the detail of the claim, of course moats and duck islands would never be defensible (no pun intended)!

    "I am going to be away for the next few days of revelations.

    Well lets hope that the BBC allows this blog to remain open...

  • Comment number 40.

    I am amazed that absolutely no one has picked up on us taxpayers paying Ruth Kelly's flood claim.

    Let me be very blunt about this.

    At the renewal of her policy Miss Kelly has an obligation to disclose the incident whether she submitted a claim or not. Failure to do so is non disclosure and could lead to a future claim being declined.

    If she hasn't disclosed the loss at best she is misrepresenting her loss experience and the non disclosure could impact on her ability to gain insurance in the future.

    She might want to read the following from the Claims and Underwriting Exchange.


    http://www.cueuk.org/default.aspx

  • Comment number 41.

    I MUST REMEMBER NEXT TIME I FILL IN A TAX RETURN TO USE OUR ERRANT

    LEADER'S EXAMPLES FOR TAX AVOIDANCE.I AM SICK TO DEATH OF THE SO CALLED

    GREAT AND THE GOOD FREELOADING AT EVERYONE ELSES EXPENSE.

    RECEIVING REWARDS FOR FAILURE TIME AFTER TIME. . .

    IT WOULD BE A GOOD IDEA FOR THE BBC TO PRESENT A FINANCIAL STATEMENT FOR

    EVERY MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT YEAR BY YEAR BETWEEN 1997 to 2008 INCLUDING

    TONY BLAIR AND MANDELSON I AM SURE MANY PEOPLE WOULD LIKE TO SEE WHAT

    THESE PEOPLE STARTED WITH AND WHAT THEY HAVE TODAY MONEY WISE??

  • Comment number 42.

    Post 29 I have a simple answer in that both Hoon and Purnell didn't make a snide comment about Gordon Brown and his YouTube video.

    Hazel Blears also seemed to have been one of Tony Blair's protegees and not one of Gordon's little friends. I know Wikipedia isn't gospel but her page seems to be rather informative.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hazel_Blears

  • Comment number 43.

    Nick

    Your are right that there are shades of grey here, and a variety of sins that in my view clearly do breach "the rules". However, the fundamental problem for Brown, is that he is at least as implicated as many others in the expenses and tax-planning (euphemism or what!) games, in that he didn't need a second home of his own from 1997 onwards, he handed it over to his wife just before Blair stood down and his own arrangements became more public. How can he sack Blears, Hoon, Purnell, Smith, Uddin and the rest when they can just ask him how much his new kitchen cost and over how many "expense-years" he phased the costs drawdwon from his ACA so as to maximise his "entitlement"? He has no credibility and so has no moral authority to take action.

  • Comment number 44.

    I'd be interested to know why Anthony Steen has been singled out for individual criticism in this blog; while I fully accept that his claim really was OTT, I also find myself wondering why Ruth Kelly appears to have escaped media censure when some of her claims were equally excessive to the point where the Fees Office disallowed some of them. Unless I have missed something (in which case I will apologise and say I made a mistake, even if that now sounds hackneyed) she has not been the topic of any adverse comment in any of today's news programmes.

    At the same time had David Cameron been eating his muesli or whatever when the interview with Steen was on Today this morning, he could have been forgiven for starting to gnaw the bowl it was served in rather than the foodstuff itself; the comments were breathtaking in their arrogance. I really could not believe what I was hearing; it was everyone's fault but the perpetrator himself. At least DC has taken a stand with errant members and made it clear that they have no future as Conservative MPs; in that he seems to have adopted a far tougher stance than the Great Leader, who seems to be tying himself in knots in his different approaches to Hazel Blears, James Purnell and Geoff Hoon.

    One point bothers me still; even if Anthony Steen's claims had been entirely "within limits", as his clearly well - appointed home must be at the top end of the price range should the electorate be expected to fund "second homes" of that standard? They are, after all, supposed to be second homes; surely something altogether more modest must be the order of the day if the electorate are to be expected to pay for it. It will be interesting to see which home he sells when the letters "MP" have to be dropped from his name.

    But his self - righteous indignation ought to go down in the annals of broadcasting as exemplifying "they still don't get it". All the same, I would advise David Cameron and his party to avoid counting chickens before they are hatched. I was going to make that point on yesterday's blog ("Back - slapping") but found that it had closed rather early...)

    "Worried conservative".

  • Comment number 45.

    I have been in correspondence with my MP about his expenses. Until very recently he has been claiming 20,000 a year for the mortgage interest on the home in Bedfordshire where his wife and children live. He has explained to me that, although he was a backbench Opposition MP, he considered that he might become a Minister in the future. He thus designated his London home - which he described to the local press as "a boxroom in Stockwell" - as his "main home".

    In making the claim for ACA an MP declares:

    "I confirm that I incurred these costs wholly, exclusively and necessarily to enable me to stay overnight away from my only or main home for the purpose of performing my duties as a Member of Parliament."

    I do not understand how an MP can make such a declaration in respect of the interest on a joint mortgage with his wife for a property in which she and their children live full-time.

    The statements about Ministers' main homes being deemed to be in London miss the point. This rule (which has now been relaxed) precluded the payment of ACAs on Ministers' London homes. It didn't relax the rules on claiming expenses for Ministers' constituency homes. Any expenditure must be "wholly, exclusively and necessarily" incurred. If it isn't, the claim cannot be made.

    I have no problem with MPs' claims where the "main home" for ACA is the same as the "main home" for CGT. It seems to me to be reasonable to pay stamp duty, maintenance costs and dilapidations as well as mortgage interest. Oliver Letwin's repairs to the water main under his tennis court appear to me to be fine. Likewise Ed Balls' and Yvette Cooper's arrangements under which they have designated Castleford as their main home both for CGT and ACA. But all those Ministers (and former Ministers) who have been claiming for the costs of constituency homes which they have designated as their "main homes" for CGT appear to me to have made false declarations.

  • Comment number 46.

    29 boabycat - you are absolutely correct. The BBC announced at lunchtime that it has the HMRC rules governing MPs' tax liabilty in the event of selling a second home. Apparently, not only are MPs exempt from tax on
    " benefits in kind " unlike the rest of us, but the HMRC effectively tells MPs that they can avoid CGT on property sales even if they tell the Revenue and the Expenses office different things about which is their secondary home. This is scandalous. If this is all true then HMRC is actively defrauding the British taxpayer by allowing double standards for MPs. Who signed off that MPs could get this double benefit??? - get the taxpayer to pay for your second home and then get the benefit of the improved selling price.No wonder Brown is now in a flap - one minute criticising Blears and then backing Hoon and Purnell despite them allegedly doing the same thing. Before you go, Nick, please make sure that this issue is fully investigated by the BBC - and no cover up.

  • Comment number 47.

    re 18, kaybraes

    GorBy and his fleshceeping appearance with the ghurkas is only to be expected. He will be there when anything good is anounced as no doubt we will now think he is ok and forgive and forget everything else.

    I hope he watched the news interview with Joanna Lumley, being pressed yet again on her political ambition, she has none, she honestly said it was a fight she couldnt lose,a "no brainer" fight for the govt to take on

    Perceptive lady.

  • Comment number 48.

    #5

    "has this something to do with the Tories wanting to cut the BBC licence fee maybe ?"

    Or Nick Robinson just being an impartial journalist, rebalancing the debate, both something that the DT doesn't know the meaning of...

    The last couple of weeks has been, almost, nothing but Labour MPs this, Labour MPs that.

  • Comment number 49.

    #7

    Well said there, and just to add a comment regarding;

    "4. The leak being to the Telegraph alone indicates the motives for the act political and/or pecuniary."

    As you say, if this leak really was about the 'public interest' why the Telegraph, why not the Guardian or Independent, you are correct to suggest the motivation you do.

  • Comment number 50.

    Laughatthetories wrote:

    >"come back and scalp some MP's its your job. It why we pay for you."

    >I very much doubt if that is in Nick's job description. You seem to be >enjoying the witch hunt. Tory?

    Why do they drag the speaker into the chair... because two of them beheaded on the same day... it was a perilous job in those days.

    More Anti-Labour :)

    I do think Nick doing poor job (after all he gets first pop at gordon - and flunks... while Adam Boulton gets 2nd and 3rd pop and gets a knock out)...

    I do think Nick needs to strike out an MP ... after all this why we give him freedom of the press....

    Too much "he fails to lead" meaning speaker....

  • Comment number 51.

    re: 12 haufdeed

    very true, and I hereby post a (cleaned) copy of something that I posted on Guido's blog about that very subject the other day...

    The solution is incredibly simple, but the BBC refuse to even mention that there is such a solution available.

    Rather than spending days of Parliamentary time and loads of tax payers money on weird quangos, all they need to do is say this

    hey, you see those laws that everyone else in the country uses? well use those.

    Independent (private company, not quango) auditors and accountants, hmrc rules/guidelines for whats allowed/relevant. dodgy claims go to the cps/police whenever the auditors/acountants or hmrc find them.

    there you go. job done.

    Can someone please explain why MPs still feel the need to be outside the law, even with the whole electorate constantly telling them just to use the same rules as everyone else? In what way is a private company director, or even a sales rep, any different to an MP when it comes to what they should be allowed to claim?

    ooh, I have to travel. I have 2 offices, so I must have different rules than everyone else say the MPs; utter rubbish; do they think that nobody in the private sector has more than 1 office or needs to travel?

  • Comment number 52.

    #10

    "His attitude to me says that he thinks he was due some money and whatever he spent it on was up to him."

    But that is exactly why the expenses system was introduced back in 1982, at a time when there was no way that the country would have accepted a large salary increase for MPs (just at the time when the '80s recession was starting to bite) the MPs decided that they would award themselves one anyway via a bit of smoke and mirrors - and with no FoIA and a press that was still very much in the old 'Scotch and soda' / 'Pie and a Pint' old chap? ways of 'investigative reporting' there was little or no chance that their little scheme would see the light of day...

  • Comment number 53.

    There have been numerous comments along the lines that the "expenses" system was set up with a nod and a wink between many in Westminster as a proxy for a salary increase which was felt politically inexpedient.

    I think that is what the rest of us call duplicitous spin, connived at by the many, and isn't that just the sort of behaviour from governments of all persuasions that we are all sick and tired of?

    If they become victims of their own complicity in contemptuous deceit of the public they have only themselves to blame.

    This illustrates why the whole basis by which we elect governments needs to change to swing some of the power away from the executive towards the electorate. This should start with getting a balanced represetation of the expressed will of the people in Parliament rather than as now the largest minority essentially wins all. Currently Labour with 36% of the votes cast has 54% of the representation. I think we should call ours an Unrepresentative Democracy, because whilst we may vote the outcome certainly doesn't represent the will of the people.

  • Comment number 54.

    Nick,

    I think that the question you raise is a good one, and one that many people obviously have greatly differing views on. Perhaps you should ask Gordon Brwon where he stands on this issue ? His recent statements and behaviour are somewhat bizzare, inconsistent and contradictory to say the least. How can Hazel Blears behaviour be "totally unacceptable" whilst still warranting his "full confidence?" ?

    Whatever anyones views are they are probably at least consistent, whereas Gordon Brown's views seem to be all over the place. What chance has he got of comparing the apples and oranges of different circumstances of MPs behaviour on this issue, when he makes seemingly contradictory and inconsistent statements about the circumstances of a single MP ?

    I also saw him on the news tonight lavishing praise on Joanna Lumley, and welcoming the Gurkhas. Whilst most people welcome his climbdown/u-turn or whatever, his behaviour seems a bit odd to me. It was almost as if he believes that they had been working on this together all along, and he was enjoying the success of the outcome - almost in denial of events that had led to todays announcements. Given that his government had dragged its feet every step of the way on this - in court, in parliament and everywhere else it would seem - on what Joanna Lumley herself described as a "no brainer", I find his behaviour bizarre.. All very odd, I wouldn't trust him an inch .....



  • Comment number 55.

    #12

    "...3 days a week...//...the other 2 days...//...[I received] reimbursement of the receipted cost of the hotel..."

    I make that five days out of seven, many MPs are in London 5 days a week, and just how much do you think being resident (not just staying a couple of nights) in a hotel would cost, remember taht the rooms wouyld have to be kept just incase parlimenmt had to sit at the weekend.

  • Comment number 56.

    Nick,

    let us get one thing straight. Say you work for a production company which has been commissioned by the BBC to produce a property programme for the wonderful corporation. Nowthen, of course you will need a car, a very nice one so that you look good, so how about a Range Rover, good for the country tours to find a suitable site. So, the production company then buys a Range Rover, let's say, and then the presenter uses it. The production company buys it, and the presenter uses it because it is necessary for 'the job'. Now I wonder if somebody could tell me what happens to the car after the programme has been completed, I wonder if the production company then sells it, at a very low price, because it is after all second hand, to an employee at a massive discount. It is no good the company using it for the next series because well, it would look so old wouldn't it.

    My point on this is that there is so much going on that people do not realise how corrupt the whole system is. A film crew for a fantastic journey to the Galapagos Islands, now who pays the air fares, how long do they have to stay, at full cost, to get that one picture, well it could be weeks, or even months, all on expenses.

    My problem is why is it felt that MPs need to go to some very exotic sites for research, then take the wife, or partner, because well they are their paid assistant as well, and the assistant needs to be helping the MP to do their job. I'm afraid the HMRC would also allow a gardner to be employed by a company where the company has offices in the country, because it is all maintenance, do not think that these people who are self-employed and have offices on some farm actually are not the same as MPs, MPs are advised by accountants, the same accountants who got paid fees and did not realise that the banks were bust. I really want all tax returns to be available on the net, with the expense receipts of everybody, what a labour of love, we can see what they are all up to. Some people who plead poverty are not at all poor, when Northern Rock went belly up did nobody else see people who were 'quite ordinary' drawing out tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of pounds.

  • Comment number 57.

    #16

    "self-opinionated windbags and busybodies"

    That's a marvellous description for those who criticise MPs and their work without knowing much (if anything) about their work!...

  • Comment number 58.

    "he would have been spared a lot of grief if he'd simply claimed thousands of pounds in mortgage interest (as, say, his leader has done)"

    Nice subtle dig at Cameron, well done. As you say, the mere presence of a reference to Cameron in your article leads to an assumption of guilt.

    You claim not to be able to draw up a league table, but are happy to categorise as trivial or extravagant.

    Is Blears "careless", "greedy" or an "outright offender"?

  • Comment number 59.

    Boilerplated

    I seem to recall that the expenses list was reported as being punted around the media for sometime before the DT bought it. As such all of the papers had their chance.

    Fully agree though that someone has made a killing here no doubt the public interest issue was a secondary consideration

  • Comment number 60.

    As they hold us over the ledge and shake the last coins from our pockets they complain about our ingratitude.
    Like stepping in dog droppings, is there an acceptable amount between your toes?

  • Comment number 61.

    Excuse me Nick, where is the balance here? We have two ministers in trouble for flipping CGT, we have Margeret Moran reported in the FT caught red handed lying about using HoC facilities to help a charity that just happened to employ her partner - the poor fellow who needs her to come and visit so often to their "second home" in southhampton, but you lead on this Tory chap? Why? Why the fascination with ducks on the BBC too? Oh, becuase that's something to hit Tories with too?

    Dont' you think you should at least try to present a facade of impartiality Nick? Just for appearances' sake? Do you think you could bring yourself to report the Moran story? Just mention it even?

  • Comment number 62.

    Introduce means testing and place the application online. If they can't afford to function as an MP, then help them out. If they can, then don't.

  • Comment number 63.

    Whilst I'd be happy to have the police investigate and decide (although they seem strangely reluctant). I'd be even happier with HMRC doing it on the same basis as they would with any of us..

    But given that's not going to happen, we the electorate are not stupid and we've just found out that some of those we trusted to act honourably have in fact been feathering their own nests at our expense.

    So the only true solution is an immediate general election - WE are the employers therefore we should decide whether to kick them out or not.

    They will get a fair hearing & at the end of the day. As they keep telling us "if they've got nothing to hide, they've nothing to fear....."

  • Comment number 64.

    7 dontcon me - I think you are wrong about the imminent release of the documents and the early politicising of the issue by the Telegraph publications. I believe that the July documents will not show which properties the expenses were paid for as addresses are not to be shown. This would mean that we could not understand if there was "misapplication". True, Labour MPs got more publicity at the start but there have been too many Tory miscreants for the public not to make up its mind. You seem to have forgotten how many Labour MPs wanted the Speaker out so don't make it all seem one sided and a political vendetta against him.

  • Comment number 65.

    #22

    "What sticks in the craw is the assumption of thse greedy MPS is that they are somehow "entitled" to large sums of extra money beyond their already fat salaries."

    On whose say, the markets - were many ex MPs go after (or even during...) their parliamentary career, which rather suggests that these MPs could earn a LOT more outside the Westminster bubble - or some self opinionated member of the public - who no doubt, if they got themselves elected as an MP, would accept that the salary is the going rate for the job?

    Sorry but I'm getting fed up reading all this verminous bile about MPs salaries, one could make an argument that people cleaning public toilets should not be paid the amount they are, that people on the 'dole' would do the job for half the 'going wage'...

  • Comment number 66.

    Oh here we go, Nick Robinson, government apologist for New Labour tries to find an angle to lesson the seriousness of all of this to the establishment. Why not go for the "it's getting a bit boring" line.

    Facts:-
    1. There are only 165 days that Parliament sits.
    2. Most MPs attend less than 50% of the available sittings
    3. A normal employee would be recompensed for travel, hotels & meals whilst working away from their main place of work (let's say that's their constituency office) for which they can produce receipts
    4. No employee is recompensed for food, duck ponds, moats, paid off mortgages, antique furniture, insurance claims etc. which are incurred as a normal part of their daily lives and are unreceipted.

    Is it really that difficult to understand, Nick?

  • Comment number 67.

    Why (including me) are we wasting so much time on this. If all 650 MPs claimed their full allowance it would be about £15M/year. If all the MPs claimed for 100 nights a week in a hotel (inc reasonable meals - a little low for some and too many for others so it should average out) it would be about £12m. So we are talking about £3M 'fat' between 650 MPs - about £4000/year/MP - so just reduce the allowance by £4000 and lets stop talking about it please - its so trivial compared to other problems in the world.

  • Comment number 68.

    I have just been looking at some of the Old out-takes of Dave Allen on youtube, and what with viewing and reading about in this current mess of British Politics it is getting very hard to tell Facts from Fiction, as I am sure David would have had a Field - Day reviewing this current mess in Government.

    The Loonies, and the Ducks have taken over in the Westminister Farm.

  • Comment number 69.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 70.

    #56

    "So, the [TV] production company then buys a Range Rover, let's say, and then the presenter uses it. The production company buys it..."

    I would expect that they would hire such a vehicle, or use a vehicle already owned by themselves - for example, as I understand it a well known ITV London Police series hire (or borrow) all their on camera vehicles.

  • Comment number 71.

    I hope Nick's blog is going to be left running in his absence so the good people can continue the good fight.

  • Comment number 72.

    Boilerplated, you must surely be an MP. You write that you're fed up with verminous bile about MPs salaries. The issue isn't about their salaries, it's about their expenses. Personally, I believe their salaries are on the low side but a lot of the MPs aren't worth even that money. John Prescott failed his secondary plus, punches people who wind him up and can't string a sentence together yet ended up deputy PM - go figure. Sure most people would have abused the system given the chance. The solution is to clean up the system.

  • Comment number 73.

    #62

    "Introduce means testing and place the application online. If they can't afford to function as an MP..."

    ...they won't put themselves up to be MPs - back to the days of only the super-rich and union supported running the country...

  • Comment number 74.

    #66

    "1. There are only 165 days that Parliament sits
    2. Most MPs attend less than 50% of the available sittings"


    That doesn't mean that they are not doing parliamentary business, either in or outside Westminster.

  • Comment number 75.

    Ballad: The MPs Lamentation For The Loss Of Expenses or The Rump Parliament of 2009

    Based upon a Loyal Song (1610 to 1660).

    Undone! undone! The MPs cry,
    And ramble up and down;
    Theyll have to pay back WESTMINSTER
    So gnash their teeth and frown.

    Now fare thee well, old WESTMINSTER,
    Then fare thee well, old DUMP;
    It was a thing set up by a King,
    And so pulld down by the RUMP.

    Now when at the bottom of the Strand
    The Speakers at a loss:
    No taxis now to to WESTMINSTER,
    He must go by CHARING-CROSS.
    Then fare thee well, etc.

    The Parliament did vote it down
    A thing they thought most fitting,
    For fear such claims would lose their seats
    In the House where they were sitting.
    Then fare thee well, etc.

    With moats and drives found in their claims,
    Now forced to set them free;
    But I dare say, and safely swear,
    They hoped wed never see.
    Then fare thee well, etc.

    The guilty ones affirm and say
    Theyll pay back, theyre not bent;
    For all I know it may be so,
    For to jail they never went,
    Then fare thee well, etc.

    This cursed RUMP, this greedy CREW,
    They were so damnd hard-heated
    Promote the Speaker to the Lords
    From their seats would not be parted
    Then fare thee well, etc.

    Now, MPs, I would advise you all,
    Tis what Id have you do;
    For fear the People rise again,
    Pray pull down TYBURN too.
    Then fare thee well, etc.

  • Comment number 76.

    #72

    "Boilerplated, you must surely be an MP."

    Wrong!

  • Comment number 77.

    74

    "1. There are only 165 days that Parliament sits
    2. Most MPs attend less than 50% of the available sittings"

    That doesn't mean that they are not doing parliamentary business, either in or outside Westminster."

    Well I really hate to burst your bubble, Mr Boilerplated, but that is exactly what it does mean-when Parliament isn't sitting, no parliamentary business is conducted in London, and the reason that the chamber is almost empty most of the time is that these hard working souls are not in London even on most of the days that parliament is sitting. So 165 days a year in London is an absolute maximum, and I doubt whether most backbenchers make it to the House more than 100 days a year. As for the market value of these paragons, the only thing the market values is their address book after a few years in Westminster- most of them wouldn't command 30k a year if they hadn't got elected. It would be illuminating to check out the average income of those who came second in the last General Election. You can bet your boots that the "market" wasn't queuing up to recruit them.Pay a salary of 30k, and you will still get loads of candidates- that's called the law of supply and demand.

  • Comment number 78.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 79.

    It's not hard to determine the average MPs worth outside of politics. Apart from cabinet ministers most disappear in to obscurity. The reason why the whips have so much power and the MPs daren't step out of line is that they know they don't have another opportunity to make some cash.

  • Comment number 80.

    Political commentators are as deluded as the westminister politicians that they wrir about,they are writing about the expenses stories as that is the only reason that people are annoyed.
    perhaps they felt angered about the Iraq war,but were ignored
    perhaps they felt angered about the referendum about the "constitution" when it was denied because it was only a treaty
    perhaps they felt angered because the tax rate was raised from 10% to 20% because if the top rate of tax was raised instead, essential people in the financial business would leave the country,and look at how essntial they were to the wealth of this country,and yet despite assurances some of the lowest paid have still not been compensated.
    So why is it such a shock that when people have the chance to kick and scream at the people who have rule them by dictat that they do it over and over.
    sadly when all this blows over nothing will have changed a few minnows will have been thrown out but the inner circles of all parties will be secure along with their pensions.

  • Comment number 81.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 82.

    #33 Cassandra

    You wrote of the criminal activities of a large number of MPs. You have no evidence to support this. There may be 3 or 4 MPs who have committed fraud. This needs to be tested in Court (and I definitely hope it is).

    There may have been a larger number of MPs who have acted unethically. This requires a different burden of proof.

    Please try to maintain a sense of balance.

  • Comment number 83.

    saga @ 27:

    Your categories are completely flawed. They show:
    a) A biased affinity for your heroine Harriet Harman.
    b} A lack of balance between Gordon Brown's stance on Geoff Hoon and Hazel Blears (totally unacceptable should be higher than 2)
    c) A class based envy of David Cameron's assets.
    d} A lack of understanding in terms of category 4. The moat thing was denied and the old codger will be resigning anyway. Surely not the most serious category in anyone's book.

    More serious still are those who claimed for mortgages already paid off!

  • Comment number 84.

    A lot of the legislation that they have drawn up recently has been derived from single cases, so that what we now have are laws that cover the behaviour of an innocent majority who have done no wrong in a way that punishes them as if responsible for the real wrongdoings of a few. So why should we care if the innocent here are tainted with the guilty? If it teaches them a lesson, good.

  • Comment number 85.

    Mr. Robinson, I know that you are again doing a 'Gordon Brown', going missing when the going gets hot. You have on a number of times briefly mentioned the food allowance of £400-00 per month.

    Will you please explain this. We all need to eat, nothing different there. Those that have to work away from their home town, generally are allowed a food allowance, but only then. When working from normal place of work, food is, as a general rule,paid for by the worker, why are M.Ps'. allowed this largess, as much as a single retirement pension.

    Perhaps it is the sort of thing, applied by those in charge, that wrankles so much.

  • Comment number 86.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 87.

    #77 haufdeed

    Any evidence for your assertion that most Parliamentary candidates would be unable to earn more than 30,000? Apart from inarticulate BNP candidates I doubt this is true. The MP's basic salary of 63,000 is far less than a comparable professional salary (e.g. QCs will earn at least 250,000 per annum).

  • Comment number 88.

    very intresting PMQ's perhaps gordon will now accept the people want a general election, that we the people actually believe we are capable of making our own judgements, part of which is sorting out the 3 main parties, but most of all we have to protect what good is left of this country and to stand by and watch another 12months of damage is unacceptable. looking forward to PMQ's next week MEP Daniel Hannon on.
    ELECTION NOW.

  • Comment number 89.

    17. At 6:55pm on 21 May 2009, peteholly wrote:
    Dontconme @ #7
    Exceptional post. Real anger and disappointment is understandable since some MP's conduct has been genuinely appalling. The synthetic froth of others, always finished off with "Call an election", is opportunistic tripe.


    Don't waste your breath, your party and your precious leader are finished.

    Question time tonight pretty much highlighted what the country really want and that is an election.

    Brown, he won't give in, just like he would not give in and give us a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

    Just like when Brown decided to proceed with the abolition of dividend tax credit, despite specific warnings from civil servants that it would take £5bn a year out of Britain's company pension schemes, leading to a £75bn shortfall, thereby plunging our entire system of private pensions into crisis.

    Just like when the Bank of England and leading financial analysts warned him not to sell the UK gold reserves costing the taxpayer approx three billion pound.

    Why is it tripe when the people of a democratic country want to elect a new government because confidence has all but disappeared from the current government.

    I'm not sorry to say I hope it's another 30+ years before we see another Labour government.
    Three Labour governments in 30 years with 3 financial disasters is more than enough for anyone.

  • Comment number 90.

    #77 Just like to add that most MPs actually only turn up in the chamber to vote (as instructed by whips) not to participate or even listen to the debates). That's why most are referred to as fodder. They also like to consider themselves as members of a profession - but there's no exam, no recognised qualifications, no in service training. This leads our wonderful ex-chancellor to be blessed with a degree in HISTORY - just the right thing in an economic crisis and perfect for the office of PM with his historic leadership and presentational skills. This parliament is a bunch of no-hopers on a gravy train with buckled wheels (but there's still plenty of gravy there. They don't understand that second homes are COMPLETELY UNNECESSARY. Harriet, if Scots MPs want a family life are you suggesting that the kids live in London 3 nights a week and in the constituency 4 nights? - where do they go to school? MPs argument about low salaries is nonsense too. £60K+ is 3 times average wage - loads of applicants, no one is going to complain EXCEPT - all the fat cat lawyers who cram Parliament because its a cushy number - no work, no monitoring. What is needed is a profession quota, a vast reduction in MPs and the Lords and an end to SAFE seats and consequent "parachuting" of slimebags by parties.

  • Comment number 91.

    77 haufdeed

    MPs are also working in their constituencies when Parliament is not sitting.

  • Comment number 92.

    Two Labour Peers have been suspended from the House of Lords for accepting money to change legislation (cash for laws).

    Why is the punishment so light?

    Surely this is a much more serious abuse of Parliament than submitting expenses that are`within the rules but are probably unethical?

  • Comment number 93.

    Watching Question Time tonight I heard Martin Bell who speak the unmentionable name of Elizabeth Filkin.

    Elizabeth Filkin was the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards in 2001 and was possibly the only person who actually did what everyone says now should have been done she tried to expose the corrupt practices in Westminster at the very highest level. Of course, as a result of this she was ruthlessly dealt with by a caucus of people led by the Speaker Michael Martin on behalf of those being investigated the most high profile of whom were probably Peter Mandelson, John Reid and John Major.

    In 2001 i.e. eight years ago the newspapers reported
    Elizabeth Filkin, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, has accused the Commons Speaker of undermining Westminster's anti-sleaze regime. In a letter released yesterday, Mrs Filkin accused Michael Martin of failing to ensure that the commissioner - Parliament's sleaze watchdog - had the independence and resources needed to ensure that MPs obeyed their code of conduct.

    Does this sound familiar this was EIGHT YEARS AGO.

    We never hear of Elizabeth Filkin now but at the time David Davis called for a public inquiry into how she was treated. Now is the time when we need a public inquiry and I imagine there would be little resistance to such an inquiry based on the problems she faced as someone who genuinely tried to clean up this rotten parliament. I believe an inquiry would reveal many of the truly guilty people (on all sides of the political spectrum) who have been against honesty and transparency.

    Can we please have a public enquiry into what happened to Elizabeth Filkin champion of the people who was so badly treated by those who have now been proved to be all that she suspected them to be.

  • Comment number 94.

    David Cameron, for some reason, seems to be getting off quite lightly over his maximum mortgage claim on his second home ... I'd have thought, as a Party Leader, he'd be taking a few more hits on this ... any theories as to why he isn't?

  • Comment number 95.

    In reply to comments @ #77

    Sorry but couldn't let this little gem slip through the net...

    "and the reason that the chamber is almost empty most of the time is that these hard working souls are not in London even on most of the days that parliament is sitting."

    Sorry to burst your bubble "haufdeed" but, try Googling "select committees", "Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) and all the other work and positions MPs hold, Westminster is not just the House of Commons or 10 Downing Street you know!...

    This is what is making this MPs expenses issue so hard to debate, to many peopel who only think that parliament is the Commons chamber and PMQs, they have no idea what other work MPs do within and around Westminster never mind the constituency work that they also do.

  • Comment number 96.

    Yes, the media must publish widely the MPs who live up to our expectations. We must try to keep them in politics for as long as they are willing to continue.

    Then get rid of the rest as quickly as possible because we are facing financial, economic, moral and political crisis which will turn into abyss if this is not sorted to people's satisfaction in the next few month.

    People are angry but still cautious. The results of the local and European elections may give the politicans a false sense of security that they can spin this one out again, just like before. They will try to string things out with promises, committee studies and investigations until we are tired of the issue and be distraction by other headline news.

    And there lie the real danger for politicians, bankers, lobbyists, elitists, the people and the country. Seeing that there is no sense of shame, no sense of responsibility, no sense of crisis but still only greed, arrogance and corruptions, the people will vote in poisonous and destructive spite in the general election. Because there is nothing much more to lose.

    Parliamentary reform is no longer enough.

  • Comment number 97.

    Boilerplated/Bankslick

    Having a DING DONG??

  • Comment number 98.

    It's very easy

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]
    Oliver

  • Comment number 99.

    all the fuss about MP's allowances has little to do with what they bought and everything to do with the fact that they are treated differently from the vast majority of the population....many people work away from home without the benefits afforded to politicians..... I expect HMRC to investigate with the same rigour they investigate thousands of self employed who cannot even claim for a sandwich without a receipt....

  • Comment number 100.

    'and that he would have been spared a lot of grief if he'd simply claimed thousands of pounds in mortgage interest (as, say, his leader has done).'
    =======

    I think that this is an important point that has been understood by the politicians but glossed over by the journalists.

    The MPs who have bought excessively expensive houses claiming the full allowance as mortgage interest have potentially benefitted with big capital gains (and a nice expensive house to live in) at the tax payers expense. These houses are probably more expensive than is reasonble to do the job but have allowed certain MPs to claim the full allowance while getting a 'clean' bill of health on expenses from most of the press.

    But if these houses are excessive they are just as guilty of overclaiming as the Duck House and gardening men who have had to stand down.

    Maybe the journalists have largely ignored this because it is difficult to determine what is an unneccesarily expensive house, especially without a lot of research, or doesn't make such a good read as Duck Houses, moats, phantom mortgages and mock Tudor beams.

    I notice that in the temporary rules published yesterday claims for mortgage interest have been limited suggesting that the MPs have understood that some of their colleagues have got off with little criticism while being able to pocket the lot.



 

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