Well there we are then, it’s all OK now isn’t it? On Thursday (18th June) the House of Commons finally made a gesture towards releasing it’s sort of secret files on MPs’ expenses yesterday – the nature of the gesture is open to interpretation but if one was being polite it might be described as being of a two-fingered Churchillian nature.
At first reading, when one gets used to the sea of blacked out details, very little by way of the questionable expense claims, the practice of “flipping” first and second homes to avoid capital gains tax would not have been revealed. A number of Ministers and MP’s who have reluctantly developed new careers late in their political lives as belated and reluctant sword fallers would still be in office.
The official information which was made public allegedly detailed claims from all 646 MPs, with more than one million receipts, contains page after page of blacked out information. I suspect that this will not satisfy very many people and the revelations are going to continue.
One interesting thing to emerge yesterday was that so far 183 MP’s have repaid the best part of £475,616 – while this figure includes repayments from those sword fallers who have already been named and shamed it also appears to have exposed some other dubious claims that were not previously known about. All within the rules I am sure, but, if they had done nothing wrong, why have they started paying money back?
More locally, the current MP for Monmouth Constituency is fending off some relatively gentle questioning about the use of some £2,000 or so (as payment for services rendered to a now defunct family business) from his communications allowance - which comes in at £17,097 (incidentally he comes in at number 12 in a list of 646). Questionable payment or not - this may provide the rest of us with a mildly interesting insight into the way Conservative family relationships work than anything else.
Tory Boy: Father dear, can you help me out?
Tory Father: Sure son of mine, that will be two grand?
Tory Boy: Dear old Dad, cash or cheque?
Questionable expenses are nothing new in Monmouth. Back in the October 1900 Khaki election, on the back of a very publicly proclaimed victory in the Boer War, Dr F Rutherford Harris (Conservative and Unionist) won (for want of a better word) the then Monmouth Borough seat.
The said Doctor was a noted friend and colleague of Cecil Rhodes not doubt he too was a potential poster boy for the Unionists. However, in what has been described as “a contest of spectacular corruption” which must have been so blatant that even the good citizens of Monmouth must have been alarmed. The result was overturned by petition in 1901. The Conservatives (read New Labour perhaps) also got their comeuppance a few years later (in 1906) over a whole basketful of other issues, including the aftermath of a questionable war that had degenerated into a prolonged guerrilla war and concentration camps.
I suspect that the UK (and the Welsh) media have bigger fish to fry...than to worry about the exploits questionable or otherwise of potentially the highest subsidised special constable in Western Europe. Besides, there are other Tories (in Monmouth) with somewhat more questionable and more dubious historic expense claims - Sofas and TV’s all around then? What?