Peter Hoskin

A frugal MP?!

A frugal MP?!
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Just in case you've completely lost the faith in our political class, it's well worth reading the profile of Philip Hollobone in today's Independent.  Hollobone, remember, is the Tory MP who claims less than a third of the average annual expenses claim in the Commons.  How does he manage it?  Mainly by not hiring staff, and by keeping things pared down.  This passage is a good taster:

"'It's quite simple,' [Hollobone] says, before starting up some rickety stairs. His work room is suitably spartan. Empty computer boxes sit in the corner. The whiff of damp from the dark patches on the wall fills the air. A chipped, dark table sits in the room's centre. The walls are bare, save a lonely print of Winston Churchill.

Each day, he goes through the process of opening mail, replying to messages and arranging events with constituents. For Mr Hollobone, diary meetings are a streamlined, if lonely, affair. With no secretary, he organises his daily schedule himself and has immense pride in his colour-coded diary. He describes the fact that he is able to set his own agenda as the best part of a staff-free existence. 'To make an appointment is really easy,' he says. 'I've got a blank piece of paper to fill and that's it. Each day has a little box.' Today it is a trip to a children's centre followed by a meeting with a farmer's union."

Of course, there's a case - which James makes here - that certain MPs may be functioning better if, say, they're using up their staffing allowance.  I think there's some truth to that.  But it should be noted that one of the Indy's sources - a local journalist who has looked into Hollobone's expenses - claims that, "We haven't had any indication that he is neglecting his duties, or any complaints. He seems to manage." 

To my mind, Hollobone is closer to some sort of expenses ideal than most of his colleagues.  Given that it's taxpayers' money in their wallets - and given, too, the fiscal climate - there should be an assumption towards frugality.