5 January 2011

The expenses shame of the 111 ‘no to AV’ Labour MPs

Just before the new year the ‘No to AV’ campaign proudly announced a list of 111 Labour MPs (at my count) who proclaim their allegiance to the current status quo voting system for electing MPs.

The ‘No’ campaign’s lack of basic research has been highlighted by Stephen Tall on Lib Dem Voice for the inclusion in the list of a number of Labour MPs who are supporting the case for reform. But perhaps when the ‘No’ campaign gets round to reading these MPs records on expenses they may regret the publicity they’ve given them and wish they’d done a bit more research. Because among the 111 are some of the greediest, most venal and pathetic MPs to survive the 2010 expenses cull.

And the reason these MPs may just be backing the ‘No’ campaign is the status quo makes it easy for them to hide from public scrutiny in their safe (even tribally Labour) seats and with AV they would have to work harder, meet more voters and no doubt have a bit of explaining to do.

Of the 111, just six – Adrian Bailey, Gordon Banks, Jim Cunningham, Kelvin Hopkins, Dennis Skinner and David Winnick – were found to be clean by the Daily Telegraph expenses investigation, and with 27 being new MPs there are 78 with varying sizes of blemish on their records. Here’s just a selection of a few of the most egregious (the full list of crimes and misdemenours can be found here):

Margaret Beckett – claimed £600 for hanging baskets and pot plants, claimed it was a mistake, but the Telegraph revealed she made three similar previous claims.
Clive Betts – claimed £1,268 for carpets, £570 for sofa bed, £689.99 for a TV, £1,433.50 on decoration, £1,220 on furniture and £1,135.20 on a bed
Hazel Blears – did not pay capital gains tax on a property she sold despite having told the Commons authorities it was her second home and was filmed writing the cheque to pay the tax back.
Ronnie Campbell – claimed a total of £87,729 for his London flat. Agreed to repay £6,000 for furniture.
Tom Clarke – designated the Sloane Club in Chelsea as second home, and claimed about £1,500 a month while in London and £400 a month for food
John Cryer – he and his MP mother Anne Cryer both designated the same flat as their second home.
Ian Davidson – paid £5,500 to a family friend to renovate his flat and then took him shooting with members of the House of Lords
Natascha Engel – charged the taxpayer for copies of a DVD of her maiden speech to Parliament and a copy of a novel by an acclaimed German writer
Tom Harris – became embroiled in a row with the Commons fees office when his claims for a baby cot and bottle steriliser were rejected
John Healey – claimed £1,172 for a new front door and spent £6,194 on his kitchen at his second Lambeth home
Mark Hendrick – admitted “estimating” the amount of mortgage interest he paid on his second home. He secretly paid back nearly £7,000
Stephen Hepburn – in 2007-08 he claimed almost £2,000 every month without receipts
Margaret Hodge – claimed thousands of pounds to pay for public relations services from a former government press officer
George Howarth – claimed £1,000 for a chest of drawers, saying “they were the only ones that matched” his furniture and £20 for a colander.
Diana Johnson – claimed nearly £1,000 to cover the cost of an architect for a decorating project at her second home
Kevan Jones – claimed £9,670 for fees and stamp duty in May 2004 and carpeting his second home in “Berwick Sand” cost a further £1,913
Eric Joyce – did not pay capital gains tax on the profit when he sold his London home and now stays in hotels in the capital
Gerald Kaufman – charged the taxpayer £1,851 for a rug he imported from a New York antiques centre and tried to claim £8,865 for a television
Alan Keen – the ‘Mr’ part of the ‘Mr and Mrs expenses’
Steve McCabe – over-claimed on his mortgage by £4,059 during the course of two years
Alan Meale – spent more than £13,000 on his garden in four years, billing the taxpayer for a new storage building, repairs to his fencing and gates, and bark to keep the weeds down
George Mudie – claimed £62,000 in expenses for his London flat in four years, while having a mortgage of just £26,000
Meg Munn – claimed hundreds of pounds in office expenses for financial advice services provided by her husband.
Linda Riordan – claimed for £219 bedding, £1,310 sofa bed/chair and a £1,936 carpet. Regularly claims maximum £400 for unreceipted monthly food bills
Jim Sheridan – reclaimed the cost of a 42-inch plasma TV, leather bed and hundreds of pounds worth of furniture. Claimed £2,091 for furniture for his London home bought from an Edinburgh store in March 2006
Angela Smith – sought payment for four beds for a one-bedroom London flat
Keith Vaz – claimed £75,500 for a second home near Parliament even though he already lived just 12 miles from Westminster
Joan Walley – claimed for more than £4,400 of furniture in London flat and a £195 blanket
Dave Watts – claimed £3,543 for refurbishment to kitchen, £3,500 for bathroom, £742 for redecoration and £549 Philips LCD 26in television
David Wright – accepted a £16,787 payment from the owners of his flat in return for giving up the right to cheap rent, then moved out. Claimed £599 for a TV but a £64.99 claim for a razor was turned down.

With supporters like these the no campaign are going to find it very hard to counter the ‘YES’ campaign’s argument that with AV MPs will need to work harder and go further to get – and keep – public support.

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