Lord Chris Rennard, who lives in Lambeth and is the man Lib Dems look to as their electoral guru (he knows how to switch on a risograph), appears to have been claiming expenses for a holiday home in Eastbourne, Sussex which he seldom uses.
Rennard is reckoned to trouser a salary of £90,000 from the Lib Dem party as its chief executive. He’s also said to be the guy who came up with the ludicrous “it’s a two horse race” graphic beloved of Lib Dem leaflets. In this case, Rennard seems to have been running a two house race.
Since 2001-2, Lord Rennard has claimed 41,678 for the Eastbourne flat as a second home, despite spending most of his time in a house in Vauxhall, Lambeth. He is a member of Lambeth Liberal Democrats. To claim for second homes, the main residence of peers has to be outside London.
I can exclusively reveal that the London Borough of Lambeth is not outside London. Apparently Lord Rennard is involved in the local residents’ association in that part of Vauxhall and uses the Lambeth address on greeting cards.
A neighbour of Rennard’s Eastbourne flat says: “We only see him a few times a year. We call him the Holiday Home Man.”
And a former adviser to the Lib Dems blabbed: “His colleagues know he lives in Vauxhall – and has to, to do his job.”
Lord Rennard has said: “At every stage I have confirmed the propriety of my claims with the House authorities.”
Propriety, huh? As with all the parliamentary expenses stories around at the moment – and they have been damaging to all parties – there is a mistaken belief that if the House authorities allow you to do something, then it is proper.
Not so. If you are earning a large amount of money, why is it proper to claim public money just because you can? Is it morally proper to claim for a second home if you rarely use it, as in this case? Why have a second home at all?