The News has been full of reports for around a week now of all the things our beloved leaders have been spending our hard-earned money on, ever since the Daily Torygraph got hold of a leaked copy of MP expense accounts.
Today's revelations include the MPs who have charged us for getting their swimming pools cleaned and Douglas Hogg, (Sleaford and North Hykeham), 3rd Viscount Hailsham, who allegedly got his expenses to cover the cost of having the moat at his ancestral home cleaned out - though to be fair, he's denying it and nobody has proved it yet. But then, you would, wouldn't you; especially if you happen to be a slimey Tory scumbag. There's the small matter of the extra £14,500 that went to pay his house-keeper's wages too.
David Heathcote-Amory, (Wells), charged for the £6 hire of a chainsaw, £1.95 for sunflower seeds (should've gone to Holland&Barratt, they're half-price at the moment), £15 for getting some rubbish moved and a fiver for getting a wheelbarrow puncture fixed. He also put in claims for 550 bags of manure at 70p per bag, which totals £385 - almost as much shit as he's hopefully going to get into - and £2 for rodent poison, which may have been a desperate measure to dispose of the rat that leaked the expenses claims. Deputy Commons Speaker Alan Haselhurst apparently claimed £142,000 for his country home and another £12,000 for gardening bills over five years.
Tourism Minister and representative for Stevenage Barbara Follet, who also happens to be a millionaire, claimed more than £25,000 for security patrols around her home, because she doesn't feel safe in London. I cack myself walking through Mile End Road at night, but being a mere prole I have to hope that if anyone decides to mug me it'll be just as one of the occasional police cars drives past. Phil Woolas is said to have claimed for women's clothing, nappies and comics - in fairness, he's denying it and threatening legal action against those who made the claims. Time will tell.
Commons expenses are intended chiefly for those MPs who require a second home in or near London as a result of representing a constituency far away. In some situations, this is acceptable - for example, an MP from the North of England might require somewhere to live in London if he or she is to attend Commons debates as regularly as they ought. There's plenty of schemes nowadays where a block of low-cost flats are built and made available for people on low incomes - why not build some for MPs? Nobody would be too bothered about that. Apart from former minister Keith Vaz, maybe, who claimed £75,000 for his Westminster flat, even though his family home is in Stanmore - a whole 12 miles away.
Then there's Labour backbencher Margaret Moran, who claimed £22,500 to treat the dry rot at her second home. OK, yes, dry rot is horrible and can have an adverse effect on health. Thing is, her second home isn't even in London - it's on the coast, and a full 100 miles from her own constituency of Luton, down in Southampton which, by a complete coincidence, happens to be where her partner works. Erm...I think that's what most of us call a holiday home. "“My partner works in Southampton. He has done for 20 years. If I’m ever going to see my partner of 30 years, I can’t make him come to Luton all the time, I have to be able to have a proper family life sometimes, which I can’t do unless I have, you know, I share the costs of the Southampton home with him," says Miss Moran. Nobody wants the poor woman to have to go without her beloved, but is it fair that we pay for it? Especially as the majority of us don't earn a basic salary of £64,766 like you MPs do. She has, however, agreed to pay it back - well, Margaret, that's really good of you. You wouldn't have done if the media hadn't got hold of it though, would you?
Let's not forget Ann and Alan Keen, a married couple who are both MPs. They claimed £175,000 for a South Bank second home flat, even though their own home is 30 minutes' drive away in Brentford. Brentford falls just outside the area designated as Inner London, and as such the couple qualify for the £23,083 made available to all MPs for this purpose annually.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Google "MP expenses" to get an impression of the sheer scale of what their expenses claims are costing the nation - we've even provided a link, just in case you don't know Google's URL. Acid Rabbi has spent a large proportion of the last week trying to come up with an erudite, pithy and witty comment on all of this, but so far the best I can come up with is: What. A. Bunch. Of. Slimey. Bastards.