The latest splash of MP expense revelations seems dominated by stretches of water, as well as stretches of the rules. No wonder current MPs of all parties are floundering in an attempt to justify their claims.
We have North East Hampshire MP James Arbuthnot (Conservative, heir to a baronetcy) having his swimming pool cleaned. He has said of the pool claims: “The claims were an error of judgment on my part. I am sorry I made them and will repay them in full.”
Note the words “error of judgment” and reflect on the fact this man is a Member of Parliament, responsible for debating and deciding our laws. Note also that he claimed to the maximum for the pool amongst many other things – £108,062 over the past five years. Spectacular error of judgment.
We have Michael Ancram, MP for Devizes (and the Marquess of Lothian), claiming for swimming pool maintenance, amongst other things. The former Conservative deputy leader has agreed to repay the swimming pool costs but protested “None of the items can be considered extravagant or luxurious. They are all strictly maintenance expenses which were required to maintain the house which was always my second home.” The Ancram family owns three houses. I suppose very few items would be luxurious if you are a Marquess, married to a Duke’s daughter.
Then we have Stewart Jackson MP, a shadow minister, claiming for work on his swimming pool and something called a ‘summer room’. Like the others he has said he will repay the claims for the pool. But why claim in the first place?
And Douglas Hogg MP, aka Viscount Hailsham, claimed more than £2,000 for clearing the moat around his Lincolnshire manor house.
Makes depressing reading doesn’t it? Then there’s another that caught my eye – David Heathcoat-Amory MP claiming for 550 sacks of manure. Could be a metaphor for the whole situation.