David Chaytor, MP for Bury North in Lancashire, is today's victim after being suspended from the Parliamentary Labour Party after he - like Elliot Morley who referred to the current scandal over MP's expenses claims as a "bloodfest" - "forgot" a mortgage had been paid off.
The Commons' chief whip decided to take action after investigating the small matter of £13,000 which Mr. Chaytor received in expense allowances to pay for interest on the loan, which was in fact paid for as long ago as January 2004. However, he continued to claim £1,175 per month until September 2005. In addition to suspension, he may face a criminal enquiry - though the police are reluctant to become involved in yet another Parliamentary scandal, several campaign groups are discussing whether or not to make formal complaints as has been the case with Mr. Morley who was suspended from the party earlier this week for similar inconsistencies regarding his own mortgage.
Mr. Chaytor voluntarily submitted his expense records to the Commissioner for Standards, but only after details emerged on Friday night - had he have done so before that time, or better still before the Daily Telegraph began publishing the results of their investigations, we may in a show of charity have given him the benefit of the doubt (well, some people may have done. We wouldn't). However, since he chose to come clean at the last possible moment before the shit hit the fan, we have to doubt his ethics.
The dodgy claims resulted from "an unforgivable error in my accounting procedures for which I apologise unreservedly," says the MP. As we said when commenting on Mr. Morley's suspension, Acid Rabbi can only wonder if such an excuse would be whatsoever were paid any heedyou, I or any other non-politician prole to attempt using it, or if we'd just get prosecuted for fraud. Who on Earth "forgets" that they've paid off a mortgage? I know I'd be celebrating for a good week at least, and that makes it seem highly unlikely that Mr. Chaytor is being entirely truthful, or so it seems to me and no doubt to a lot of other voters.
It seems Mr. Chaytor has also been up to no good when it comes to which property is his second home, this being the one for which he can claim expenses, changing ("flipping", as the Torygraph has decided it should be known) between his London home, his Lancashire home and another property in Yorkshire. He also claimed for two other properties, including one at which his son was named as occupier on council tax bills. Wow - thanks, Dad!
Sheila Magnall, who last week took on the position of Mayor of Lancashire, said that "There are people struggling on low wages, losing their jobs and with mortgages to pay – and so they are going to be very upset. When we knock on doors and canvass people, we regularly get people saying 'you are only in politics for what you can get out of it', but that is simply not true. However, when things like this happen, you cannot blame them for thinking that."
Most of us would be willing to believe that there are some MPs who take up their positions for honourable reasons, even that most MPs start off with similar aims. But there are definitely several who are in it for no reason other than to line their own pockets, and even those who enter Parliament wanting to change their constituents' lives for the better often become seduced and corrupted by the benefits of the job leading them into sleaze and greed. That's why many of us believe that our representatives should get a flat salary and that is it. Those that work for constituencies a long way from London - and we mean a long way, not just outside Inner London, as in places that would require a journey of several hours in order to attend sittings - should expect to have basic accomodation made available to them, rather like the low-cost housing which built for young people and the needy. A single bed, a cupboard - they can use the £64,776 (basic salary - ministers get more) to pay for the rest, just like the rest of us are expected to pay for what we need or want out of our own (on average much lower) salaries.
Meanwhile, the National Executive of the Labour Party is looking into proposals for any MPs shown to have acted in a dishonest way to be deselected, effectively preventing them from standing at the next election. Hey, relax - there's no need and you may as well use the time to do something else, nobody's going to vote for the bastards after this!