You may wonder how that is so – after all Ed and Yvette got away with their fiddle. Yes they did, but only after arguing that their constituency home was their main residence. They claimed that they spent more time at the constituency home and therefore that was their primary residence, allowing them to claim expenses for their more expensive London home. That argument was accepted by the authorities.
Jacqui wants us to accept the opposite. That her main home is her sister’s London home where she lodges, so she can claim for her more expensive constituency home. She will have to show that she spends more time at the London flat than seeing her own kids. Crucially, is it three or is it four days a week that she spends away from her kids? The Balls’ argued successfully that in the recess and school holidays they spent the majority of the time away from London, it is hard to believe that Jacqui would stay in London when parliament is in recess and remain away from her family. Why would she do that when she was previously a whip? There would be no reason to stay away from her family and constituency.
That recent Balls precedent is going to be a difficult obstacle. However the Michael Trend precedent is even more worrying for Jacqui. In 2003 the Tory MP was found guilty of abusing the allowances system and ordered to repay £90,277, he was also suspended from parliament and stood down in disgrace at the following election. His crime was to claim the same allowance as Jacqui has when he was staying with a friend in London. Trend claimed he “believed that I could properly continue to designate London as ‘home’ for the purposes of ACA, even though, in domestic terms, Windsor had become my “main residence”.” This is apparently Jacqui’s position. It was not accepted. There was no doubt in the Standard’s Committee’s minds that there was no “real scope for doubt that the words “main residence” were intended to have other than their natural meaning.”
The Committee ruled that “Mr Trend should have recognised that, by claiming Additional Costs Allowance in relation to his Windsor home, the taxpayer was meeting some of the core running costs of what was in reality his main residence. He should have realised that this was wrong. Accordingly, we agree with the Commissioner that Mr Trend was negligent and has breached the Code of Conduct by making improper use of the Additional Costs Allowance and by failing strictly to observe the administrative rules relating to the Allowance.”
It is hard to see how, in these parallel circumstances, Jacqui Smith should not suffer the same fate. Ordered to repay the fiddled £116,000 and suspended from parliament. In which case she will have to resign as Home Secretary.
UPDATE : Don’t forget her husband is also on the payroll (£40,000) doing “research” – when he isn’t sending letters supporting her to the local paper – without mentioning his financial and marital relationship.
Why don’t we just tell him his campaign has won and make the old guy happy?
UPDATE : Well fancy that, Guido only intended to make a jokey comment and the co-conspirators in the comments pointed out he is paid £25,000-year by a bus company. What do you bet they want to get into the yellow school bus market?
Why isn’t he being charged for fraud?
UPDATE 11.00 : Ordered to re-pay another £3,757 paid to his son. A small fine. and ordered to write a written apology. Not really proportionate to the amount that was defrauded, is it?
Guido suspects that the return to a dithering shambles in government spin owes something to the “deputy PM” Lord Mandelson being in India trying to smooth over the mess left by Miliband – though the Indian PM is refusing to meet him in a deliberate snub.
The mySociety organised online campaign against the MPs expenses cover-up saw 90% of MPs contacted by voters opposed to the move. Thousands were mobilised very quickly. Despite this a back room deal was still all set to go ahead until Dave vetoed it.
Shadow Leader of the House Alan Duncan now claims that the Tories rejected the moves on principle, it is fair to say that on this issue Cameron has “got religion” and thinks the old ways are finished. (The LibDems have always been sound on transparency.) However an old school axis of expense fiddlers exists which is cross party. Tory bed blockers and Labour backbenchers all have a highly developed sense of entitlement to pocketing the taxpayer’s money. This particular alliance with Labour, quietly sorted out by Sir Michael Spicer, chairman of the 1922 Committee, in his capacity as shop steward for Tory MPs had agreed a nod and a wink deal with Labour to get the motion passed. Cameron scuppered the deal when he ordered that all Tory MPs be whipped to vote against it. Brown only U-turned after it became clear that the deal was off.
These pictures of McDonnell picking up the mace were not originally* broadcast and have come out from the raw video feed – much to the annoyance of the parliamentary authorities. Why the parliamentary authorities think it is up to them to censor what the people see going on in their parliament is beyond Guido. They work for you, the workings of parliament are not for them to reveal when they choose, it is the right of the people in a democracy to see into the democratic forum. An open democracy does not hide its workings from the voters.
Elsewhere the parliamentary authorities are suppressing full disclosure of MPs expenses. Jacqui Smith has (without reference to parliament) given herself the right to read Guido’s email without a warrant, yet MPs in contrast are changing the Freedom of Information laws to allow them to obscure our view of their petty fiddles. There is no other credible explanation. They claim that it would be too expensive to account for all expenditure – try putting that on your tax return. Some MPs are taking it upon themselves to voluntarily publish ALL their expenses, some will not, draw your own conclusions. If they have done nothing wrong, they have nothing to hide…
The Fink had a go at “punk tax cutters” yesterday despite always claiming that he is in favour of lower taxes (in the long term) – it is just that those pesky voters don’t believe politicians who promise them – so don’t promise tax cuts – is his argument. Well a new poll from ComRes suggests he is wrong and that if a credible politician made a credible promise, it would be popular. It found that:
Harriet Harman Offers Less Than the Living Wage | Owen Bennett
Fallon’s Red Arrow Spin Unravels | Wings Over Scotland
What is the LibDems’ Problem With “The Jews” | Speccie
Image is the Least of Ed’s Worries | Speccie
The Most Politically Cynical Speech I Have Ever Seen | Dan Hodges
Full Sunday Sport Style Guide Email | MediaGuido
What if a Hamas Rocket Hit a BA Plane? | Richard Littlejohn
Sunday Sport Swearing Style Guide | Popbitch
Tory MP’s Love of Astrology | BBC
No.10 Shouldn’t Get Excited at Growth Figures | Mark Wallace
Feminist Lobby Killing Meritocracy | Kathy Gyngell
New Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has big ambitions in his first meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu today:
“I came to bring this conflict to an end.”
Christie Malry @fcablog
Ed Miliband does photo oops, not photo ops