Shahid Malik, the Labour MP who was recently given a new Cabinet position after he was cleared of wrong-doing related to previous expenses allegations, is once again facing inquiry after new accusations were made in the Daily Telegraph.
Malik, who has stated that the new claims are a "complete fabrication," resigned as Justice Minister in May after the newspaper claimed that he might have been a little dishonest over his Dewsbury constituency flat, for which he was paying £100 a week in rent which was thought then to be a preferential rate. This figure was subsequently found to be in line with the current market and since the £66,827 (the Telegraph also says that he claimed £82,603 in rental expenses during the same amount of time) he has claimed over the last three years - amongst the highest of all MPs - was all perfectly acceptable by Parliamentary guidelines, he was declared to be in the clear after an investigation led by Commissioner for Standards Sir Phillip Mawer, though Sir Phillip did note that it was unfortunate that Malik had not been able to provide proper audit records. However, Prime Minister Gordon Brown has refused to publish the report into his affairs, which has led several newspapers (and Acid Rabbi) to question whether or not there may have been anything...how shall we say it...a bit shifty going on.
The new allegations are connected to two sets of office space, for which he has made claims to cover the cost of rent - No.10 Downing Street has not yet specifically commented, but says that the claims are not a breach of ministerial code. Under Parliamentary rules, an MP is allowed to claim for one office in the constituency they represent, and while Mr. Malik freely admits that he does have a second office he says that this is also within guidelines.
Mr. Malik took over an office originally used by his predecessor, but left that office in April 2006 as it was, he claims, too small to meet his needs. He then began claiming £6,000 per annum for a new, larger office and has continued doing so - but also claimed for the old office, listed in his expenses claims as "office 2", until April 2008 when the last claim was made, which would mean that he was still claiming after the date on which he says the last member of his staff moved to the new space. The money was paid to Yes Properties, which is owned by Tahir Zaman - the same man from whom Mr. Malik rented the Dewsbury flat.
The Parliamentary guidelines on making expenses claims for office space states that "You must ensure that arrangements for your office and surgery premises are above reproach and that there can be no grounds for a suggestion of misuse of public money."
Oh, Shahid, Shahid. We really want to like you - after all, you were the first ever Muslim to become a Government minister and that really pisses off the sort of people most of us hate. We also loved what you did when you exposed the truncheon-happy police during the Burnley riots back in 2001. Your efforts to promote Muslim-Jewish understanding and criticism of the Iraq war have been both inspiring and laudable (we'll temporarily overlook your opposition into investigating the war for now). But please - just be honest with us. You have to admit your expenses have been astronomical, and while nobody would say you should have paid for offices out of your own pocket - after all, employees of companies are not expected to pay for their workplaces - this really does look very dodgy.
The first thing you need to do is very simple: just apologise for the huge amount of money you have already claimed (including the massage chair, and what you tried to claim for the television) and promise you'll try to limit it in the future. You'll be amazed at what saying sorry can achieve. People don't expect politicians to apologise and we might even be so amazed that we'll forgive you. The second thing to do is to ask Mr. Brown to publish redacted details of Lord Mawer's findings - we'll be perfectly happy if all the private and personal details have been removed, just so long as we know why and how you were found not to have acted dishonestly - because right now, it's very difficult to believe you did anything but.