Well, what a ludicrous week it has been in terms of political mishaps.
Thanks to the freedom of information act, we have feasted our eyes upon countless interviews with MP’s staring into a TV camera lens like a schoolboy being confronted by his headmaster. So, just in case you missed any of the dodgy claims that have seen our MP’s being ripped apart by the media, here’s a list of all of the luxurious items and services that we, the taxpayer, have paid for. “It is my second home. Honest.”
1. We start with Gordon Brown. An imposing political figure? Yes. Capable of pulling this country out of the economic crisis? Mmm, maybe. Desperately needed to pay his brother £6,577 to arrange cleaning services for his flat in Westminster? Nope. Although this claim wasn’t the main trigger to the political witch-hunt, the figure does seem a little excessive. This fee was paid by Brown over a period of 26 months, although No.10 say that Andrew Brown, the PM’s brother, did not in fact gain a penny of this sum. Why? Well, it gets a bit complicated. Funny that.
2. With all of the driveway interviews that Hazel Blears has participated in over the last couple of weeks, we can all agree that the lass deserves a sit down… on the £5000 set of furniture that she has in her home courtesy of our tax money. Not so sympathetic now, are we? Hazel, whose constituency is Salford, paid this hefty sum over three months in order to spruce up her 2nd home. This isn’t out of character for Ms Blears, oh no, because in March 2004 she claimed £850 on a TV and video and £651 on a mattress. In April, she switched her 2nd home to a flat in London, claiming £850 a month for a mortgage. There are so many figures to contemplate; but, there’s more. In August, she sold the flat, making a cool £45,000- paying no capital gains tax whatsoever on that. In December, she bought another London flat, claiming a monthly mortgage of £1000 and a grocery bill of £400. Since then, she has agreed to repay £13,332… but she thinks that the furniture claims were “Reasonable”. Our opinion may slightly differ from hers.
3. Justice secretary Jack Straw over-claimed £1,500 on council tax. Snidely, he claimed the full bill despite getting a 50% discount from the local authority. He later said that he had spotted the mistake in claims and repaid the money. Couldn’t he have spotted the mistake beforehand?
4. Now, I like this one. Geoff Hoon, transport secretary, reportedly switched his 2nd home and refurbished his family home in Derbyshire. He then went off and bought a London townhouse. The telegraph revealed that he claimed £20,902 for his second home and then spent thousands of pounds on refurbishments for his 2nd… sorry, 1st home. He’s getting me confused now. He later went on to claim approximately £40,000 and, according to the paper, he bought a Georgian Townhouse in Westminster and claimed that as his 2nd home.
He said this in response to the reports:
“These were comparable to the costs I would have incurred if I had continued to live in my own property, therefore a claim under the ACA for my constituency home was not unreasonable.”
5. Unlike Conservative leader David Cameron, Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg hasn’t kept his nose clean. He reportedly claimed the maximum allowed under the ‘second home allowance.’ He also claimed for phone calls to Spain, Colombia and Vietnam- credit to him, though, that he openly admitted that he was wrong about the latter.
“These international calls should never have been charged to the taxpayer and I apologize.
I have paid back the total cost of £80.20.
I voluntarily published my expenses in detail last year and refused an increase in my salary.”
6. Phil Woolas, our immigration minister, is the subject of many pointing fingers over his claiming for the cost of nappies, comics and woman’s clothes. In August ’04 he claimed around £200 for “Food.” He also claimed for women’s shoes, bibs, more comics, nail polish and a woman’s jumper. I’m less concerned about the £162.58 that he claimed, but more about what he was buying with it.
7. My personal favourite. Douglas Hogg, former agriculture secretary, claimed £2000 for a moat, yes, a moat, to be cleared out in the grounds of his country estate. The Lincolnshire-based estate is, in fact, empty most of the time. Hogg and his wife’s primary digs are in the capital, which seems a tad peculiar considering the “substantial” amount of money spent to maintain the pristine lawns of his estate. This would, or wouldn’t, justify the £14,000 housekeeping bill that we payed for his full time housekeeper there. Did I mention King Henry VIII’s grandma lived in the same home for a while?
8. Here’s a succulent one for you: Lembit Opik, best known for his frolicking around with a Cheeky Girl, repaid £2,499 for a 42 inch plasma television. On top of that, he will now repay a £40 fine, which is small but nevertheless signifies justice to the people of Britain. He also claimed £12, 655 for flat renovation. Other claims that were made were rejected; including garden decking and the removal of indoor walls. “He is a cheeky boy, he is a cheeky boy.”
(If I had the right to expenses, I’d claim her)
9. There can never be too many houses for shadow home secretary Chris Grayling. There are so many 0’s on his claims list that, frankly, i’m not sure that you could bring yourself to register them. So, here is a list of house-related things that he submitted claims for: Two taxpayer loans to fund a flat in London (even though his constituency is within a 20 mile radius of the House of Commons and he also owned three houses within the M25 area), property renovation and he is also alleged to have delayed claims for decorating and refurbishment so that he could pocket the maximum ACA (Additional Cost’s Allowance). Sneaky.
10. He’s the final MP in our summary and let’s put it this way, people aren’t exactly going to be erecting statues of Kenneth Clarke- Conservative’s shadow business secretary- after he avoided paying the full rate of council tax on two of his homes, neither of which he says were his main places of residence. Clarke protested his innocence to Parliamentary authority, saying that one of his homes was within his constituency and the other was in the capital. However, with situations such as these there is usually another twist in the tale- as we discovered when it was alleged that he ‘used his constituency-based house so little’ that he also requested a 25% council tax discount for his wife on a third property.