We've liberated the world's tiniest violin from the office cupboard in honour of Mark Simmonds, MP for Boston and Skegness and now-former Foreign Office Minister. He's quit the government and is standing down from Parliament next year because he says he can't afford a family home in Westminster and in his constituency on his MP's pay.
Simmonds — who can claim £27,875 a year to rent a flat for himself and his family in London, as well as an annual salary of £67,060, which was topped up to around £89,000 while he was a minister — says he's stepping down to spend more time with his family, since he's too poor to put them up in the capital. £27,875 a year works out at £2,323 a month, so what could Simmonds afford?
If he wants a four bedroom flat in Westminster, then... er... nothing, according to Zoopla. But housing benefit rules say that two children of the same gender under the age of 16 are expected to share, and two of Simmonds's three children are girls born in 1999 and 2000. So let's look at three bedroom flats: there's one with three double bedrooms in Pimlico with views over London on at £2,275pcm:
The thing is, it looks like an ex-council block and Simmonds might not like that, so what about this flat from the Peabody Trust close to Chelsea Bridge?
The rent is £2,200pcm and the MP easily qualifies for the minimum £66k pa salary requirement — especially when you know his wife is also paid between £20k-£24,999k, using public funds, to be his office manager.
But why are we looking in Westminster at all? Well, Simmonds appears to have a penchant for walking to work:
"Of course if MPs want to get into the business of travelling extensively from Westminster to the outer reaches of London to rent a flat then that's up to them but that's not the lifestyle I want and it's not the lifestyle I have chosen for myself or I want for my family."
Whoops, we appear to have smashed the world's tiniest violin against the wall in a fit of rage.
If the member for Boston and Skegness can be bothered to get off his backside and commute like the rest of us, we would suggest a four bedroom house with a garden in chichi Ladywell; a four bedroom house with off street parking, garden and rather nice floorboards in Muswell Hill (but he'll probably want to be on the tube, won't he?); if it's the Thames he craves in Westminster, there's always this four bedroom house in Chiswick:
Sorry, East London, but we suspect Mark Simmonds would have an apoplectic fit if we recommended anywhere in your manor.
We also note with interest that £27,875 in housing expenses is more than the £26,000 per year benefit cap introduced by the government, which Simmonds thinks is a great idea. In a statement last November, he said:
"Under 13 years of Labour a something for nothing culture was allowed to develop. Thanks to the Conservative’s Benefit Cap, households are no longer able to claim more in benefits than the average family earns by going out to work."
Irony? What irony?