The Augean Stables are being deep-cleaned. Some MPs realise that the game is up and are quietly sacking family members and others in anticipation of a less friendly regime concerning such arrangements. Meanwhile the Commons shredders are hard at work destroying the evidence of past excesses as piles of records of expenses and allowances are placed beyond the reach of a vengeful public.
In addition the introduction of any new system is being delayed so that MPs have every opportunity to get their halos straight and shiny once more.
That family members are hurriedly being given the boot suggests that the arrangements under which they were employed would not bear scrutiny and might in turn lead to trouble of the sort that Derek Conway now finds himself in. Guido has pointed out some more rather interesting facts in this helpful tribute to the employability of the Watson family.
But it is the notion that details of expenses from recent years are being shredded which will most offend. If you believe the excuse that this is purely routine and happens every year at this time, then I suggest you nip down the garden quick to see if the fairies are still there. It is plain as a pikestaff that if exposed to the incredulous view of the Taxpayer, who, by now, has a pretty clear view of some of the potential abuses, the floor of the House of Commons cellars would soon be awash with the blood of MPs caught with their grubby hands in the till. Guido would, I like to think, be pleased at the irony.
Yet more pabulum for the enthusiast has been provided with this story from the Mail on Sunday which points to an interesting coincidence. Nottingham South Labour MP Alan Simpson bought a property in Italy in 2002. Hitherto he had rubbed along with a house in London and one in Nottingham which until 2001 were bringing in £14k per annum in expenses and allowances for his London pad. Come 2002 and the purchase of the nice little place in Tuscany and his claims shot up by 42%.
Thus far there is no evidence that Mr. Simpson has actually squirreled away money intended for his London house to be utilised on his Tuscan hideaway, of which one imagines his Nottingham South electorate were suitably ignorant: it would not do to let them think he was anything other than a horny-handed son of toil at the Labour workface would it? After all, two houses in the UK and one in Italy would be well out of the reach of the average nurse or bus driver, so one would not want them to feel jealous, after all.
Naturally Mr. Simpson has managed to slip the word ‘defamatory’ into his response, but the import of the Mail article is clear: so where’s the writ?
Mr. Simpson will, of course, support Gordon Brown’s measures to stop second-home ownership in areas such as Cornwall and North Norfolk. Meanwhile Tuscan citizens priced out of the market by his snapping up affordable pieds-à-terre in the region can just go hang, can’t they?
Meanwhile the Sunday Telegraph has worked out that the seventy Labour MPs who have signed an Early Day Motion in support of Mr. Speaker Martin, who is busily
burying the evidence ‘supervising’ the cleansing of the Augean Stables, are themselves amongst the highest claimers of expenses and allowances and collectively have their snouts in the trough to the tune of £10 million last year. This comes as no surprise: twenty-one of them voted for David Maclean’s Freedom of Information ( Suppression Amendment) Bill in May last year, out of the seventy-six labour MPs who supported it.
Is it possible to discern something of a pattern here? Just a bit.