A Right Honourable Mess

Dean Nicholas
By Dean Nicholas Last edited 112 months ago
A Right Honourable Mess

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As the damning revelations about Labour MPs expenses rattled round Fleet Street last week and plunged the cranium of Gordon Browns government further into the cistern, Tory members would've done well to hold their laughter at "two Johns" Prescott and the sputtering excuse-making of Blears, et al.This morning the Telegraph, surely securing its Press Gazette award, splashed with revelations about Conservatives claims that are even more ludicrous than those Right Honourable members in the Cabinet.

Among the most entertaining claims were those made by Shadow Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan for dog food, the £180 beggared by Shadow Universities Secretary David Willetts to change lightbulbs in his west London home, and the £2,145 that Oliver Letwin required to fix a pipe beneath his tennis court. Home "flipping" — the process of switching designated address, allowing MPs to claim taxpayer money for renovations on two properties — was enjoyed by Michael Gove and Francis Maude, among others, the latter some £35,000 over two years for mortgage interest payments on London flat when he owned another home a few hundred yards away. Theresa Villiers pulled the same trick when buying a Kensington house worth £345,000.

The sheer mundanity of some of these requests — £1.95 for a pork pie, for example — should shield some of our political class from the more extreme accusations of "banana republic" quackery. Indeed, it is damnably bland at times: our rapacious, greedy society might condemn the more honest politicians for not squeezing more out of the tube. Given the trough to feed from when the farmer's out of town, some beasts only nibbled round the edges while others dived in to their trotters.

But the cries of innocence that already bleat from the downturned mouths are those of children caught scoffing the chocs that mother forbade, knowing that they're in the wrong yet determined till the end to hang onto some shred of dignity.

Last Updated 11 May 2009