Wednesday, 22 March 2023

When the cats away, the mice will play

Well, what can you expect when Jacqui Smith decided to call her sister’s spare bedroom her main house? Oh, excuse me, she’s sharing her sister’s house. Well, what can you expect when Jacqui Smith decided to share a house with her sister instead of her family? Surely, you don’t think that being physically separated from her lovely charms her husband should live the life of a monk.

Ms. Smith was very correct in being embarrassed and agreeing to repay the measly 10 GBP, or whatever the total cost was. This is no cause for calling for her resignation. After all, Mr. Brown thinks she is doing a “great” job as home secretary. And we can trust everything that comes out of Gordon Brown’s mouth, right?

And recalling the issue of MPs expenses, everyday we are learning about more of these ridiculous allowances. Tony McNulty claiming second home allowances at his parents’ house (or actually, he paid for it but his parents live there). He claims he uses it for constituency work, but has he proved it? Why is it necessary to use it when he does not live very far away?

Mr. and Mrs. Alan and Ann Keen are stretching their case somewhat. They live 9 miles from Westminster, but had to purchase a flat to be within walking distance. Let’s forget the fact that the flat has gained in value and they stand to gain a lot more money in profits than they received in their expense allowance. Was it really necessary for them to be that close to their work? Has it benefitted parliament?

How about Mr. Harry Cohen claiming a one-bedroom former schoolhouse and a caravan as his main home? He has been an MP since 1983. He bought the schoolhouse in 1999 and his 3-bedroom home in Leyton in 2006. When did he buy the caravan? Where was he living prior to 1999? He has blatantly stated that his second home allowance was essentially part of his pay package, so he was entitled to it all.

Although the rules do not stipulate which homes MPs may choose to claim as their primary home, Ms. Smith and Mr. Cohen have shown some lack in mental processes when it comes to differentiating which is a primary home and which is a secondary one. OK, Ms. Smith spends slightly more time with her sister, but can she honestly say that is her main home? Mr. Cohen already suffers from “depression” for which he treats by writing erotic poetry. Mental illness can affect judgment. Makes me wonder what his constituency suffers from.

The Keens are just revelling in the fact that they have not done anything legally wrong. For they really haven’t – at least, not that we can really see. There are too many loopholes in the expense rules, so they both claim second home expenses on their flat. The Daily Telegraph claims that they live only 30 minutes away from Westminster, but travelling in London, in my opinion, is not that easy. However, I would be interested in finding out what the actual travel time is from their main home to parliament, door-to-door. With that firmly established, then, we can attack the ethics behind the claims.

Mr. McNulty. Here I sigh. Can’t he just admit that he couldn’t pay the mortgage with his regular salary and he needed to claim expenses to help him keep up the house for his parents to live? That would make his constituents more sympathetic and perhaps call for a pay raise for MPs.

After the “sex tapes” scandal, Ms. Smith will probably wonder if all this was worth it.  Her reputation is at stake now, publicly and personally.

A review is supposed to take place in September and the results will be published sometime next year. A reform is what is needed, but that reform cannot take place without a review. Government has to work so slowly just to be sure it is fair to all concerned. Yet, it does not seem fair to the public.

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