James has already highlighted the latest batch of expenses revelations – which include Barbara Follett and her private security patrols; Keith Vaz and a handful of refurbished properties; and Margaret Moran and a £22,500 dry rot treatment. As you’d expect, it’s just the thing to make your blood boil on a Saturday morning. Beyond that, three things strike me:
1) Despite the outrageousness of the original claims, the “begging letters” sent by MPs to Commons authorities are perhaps more damning. In many cases, they reveal an arrogance and pomp which contrasts grimly with the sactimonious TV appearances MPs are putting in at the moment. The Telegraph are running a best-of selection here. Although this snippet, by a “Labour MP in Nov 2004”, wins first prize for sheer gall:
“I object to your decision not to reimburse me for the costs of purchasing a baby’s cot for use in my London home…Perhaps you might write to me explaining where my son should sleep next time he visits me in London?”
2) Where were the Commons authorities? Sure – as the begging letters testify – they blocked some of claims, but some were still processed despite the concerns of the parliamentary fees office. We’re told, for instance, that:
“The parliamentary authorities were concerned that the [dry rot treatment at Margaret Moran’s house] broke the ‘spirit’ of the rules. However, the MP’s claim was not blocked.”
It’s this kind of thing which highlights just how flimsy – and open to misuse – the current system is.