More on expenses
Since my original letter to the Herald Express reminding voters of my promises concerning the allowances -and especially the bloated staffing and office allowances- being claimed by MP's both the other main parties have kicked up a huge fuss. I have had to reply to a letter from Labour in the Herald Express, and today, a letter from the Lib Dems.
This is my reply after Labour's press spokesman Barry Kaye complained last week:
"Barry Kaye, the press officer of the Newton Abbot Constituency Labour Party, seems to have been stirred up by my promises last week concerning what I would do concerning my own allowances if I am elected as Torbays next MP.
Having worked in business for twenty five years during which I have had to account for every penny it irritates me as much as the next man how lax the regime for MP's is, but I cannot promise to -as he so graphically described it - "ride into town and clean up Dodgy City'" - that is not what I said in my letter.
The only people who can ever 'clean up' Westminster properly are the electorate by considering carefully who they vote for. If people continue to elect people like Labour minister Mr McNulty who think it is all right to claim £60,000 in allowances for a second home that is nine miles away from his main home, or Labour Home Secretary Jacqui Smith saying her sisters spare room is her 'main home' so that she can claim £116,000, then that is their democratic choice and I am not going to interfere in it.
In the meantime, I am standing for election here, so I have told everyone clearly what I will do about my expenses if they decide to send me to Westminster. Long ago I invited the our existing MP to join me and make a similar pledge and he declined, so Torbay residents will have to compare what I have pledged with what the competing candidates offer, and make their own decision."
And today I have replied to the Lib Dem chairman who has penned a fairly tedious attempt to distance her MP from the expenses controversy in todays Herald. I have replied as follows:
The chairman of the Torbay Liberal Democrats Jean Cope weighed in from the yellow corner on Monday to attack me for making a clear statement about what I intend to do about my Parliamentary Allowances if I become the Bays next MP, she joins the Labour press spokesman who had a go at me for the same thing last week.
Both the other two parties have now had a high old time complaining about the promise I made (originally in 2003)to use the staffing allowance properly - to employ only essential staff in published job roles working exclusively on non political constituency matters; and to advertise any vacancy openly (including salary details) so that anyone qualified can apply. In addition I have said I will not employ family or political colleagues on the taxpayer and to publish all claimed expenses - including the detailed receipts.
I specifically did not mention the existing bay MP's staffing arrangements in either of my letters - so her claim that I have attempted to link Mr Sanders with the 'proven dishonest practices' of some MP's seems strangely paranoid. Perhaps Mrs Cope was unconsciously reflecting on her own members disquiet about their MP employing his political colleagues and his partner all these years on our taxes, or perhaps she was thinking about all the people looking for one of the good quality jobs that Mr Sanders is always saying Torbay needs - who have never been given so much as a sniff at working for him.<
As Jackie Smith has established, however immoral, claiming £40,000 from the public purse to pay your spouse is neither dishonest or illegal; but that does not mean it is right, or fair.
It's still not too late, Mrs Cope. Your MP could kill this off as a political issue tomorrow by simply matching my promise.
This is a really easy problem to deal with. Any MP who thinks the expenses are too generous really doesn't need to claim them. Banging on about how wrong the system is whilst milking it for all it's worth is the epitome of Hypocricy - which is why I really shouldn't be surprised at the letter from the Lib Dems.
What is a really interesting giveaway here is that in spite of massive hand-wringing and complaints along the lines of 'you have MP's on your side doing it too' neither the Labour candidate nor the Lib Dem MP have attempted to deal with this properly by matching my pledge.
Which tells you all you need to know.