The name Julie Brighouse probably means nothing to you. We'd never heard of her until now either. All we really need to say about her is that she lived with her partner for seven months in a house near Tamworth - the trouble is, she was claiming housing benefit and income support during that time and "forgot" to let the benefits agency know she was not living alone. As a result, she was paid £5,329.89 to which she was not entitled.
Ms. Brighouse got caught, and was accused of benefits fraud. Once found guilty, she had to pay back the full sum along with costs amounting to £725 and was also required to complete 100 hours of community service.
You have almost certainly heard of George Osborne, because he's the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, the MP for Tatton in Cheshire and a man who has been the target of more than one article here - we maintain a particular loathing for him as one of Cameron's cronies and make no claims otherwise. Your man Ozzy finds himself standing outside the headmaster's office this morning because Parliamentary Standards Commissioner John Lyon says that he shouldn't have stated the mortgage on his constituency home - which he had declared to be his second home, thus making himself able to claim the mortgage payments on his expenses bill even though the second home allowance is actually supposed to be for MPs to buy a home in London so they can attend debates in the Commons (more about Ozzy's mortgage-related shenanigans here) - was £450,000 when it was, in fact, £445,000.
Citizens of Tatton! Want to see your MP picking the dog eggs off the grass and fishing the Special Brew cans out of the lake in your local park? We thought you might - we would too, even though doing so would mean travelling considerably further north than we're generally comfortable doing (even after immunisation shots). However - you can't. That's because George Osborne is one of the Special People and doesn't get punished for fraud like us common folk.
Five grand doesn't sound a vast amount of cash when we're talking about the price of a grotty council flat off half a million quid. But as Councillor Robert Pritchard of Tamworth Borough Council said following the prosecution of Ms. Brighouse, it's "a considerable amount of money which should have gone to someone who really needed it." As in, not to somebody who has a fortune of over £4 million and stands to inherit both the Baronetcy of Ballentaylor and a tasty share of his dad's profitable interior decor business. In other words, not somebody like George Osborne. With a salary of at least £64,766 he could in all probability be said to be in a position to pay his own chauffeur fees and still have change to buy a couple of DVDs of a speech given by himself, rather amusingly on the subject of value for taxpayer's money.
Now, never let it be said that Acid Rabbi treats people unfairly (even though such an allegation is undoubtedly true). In Ozzy's defence, we'll mention the fact that John Lyon has accepted the MP's claims that everything he claimed he claimed in good faith, having quite rightly sought advice from Commons authorities. We'll accept that - Lyon doesn't seem the sort of chap who will fall for any old bullshit to us. We do wonder, however, if those authorities standard reply to any question that boils (with very little heat) down to "can I rip off the British electorate please?" is: "Hey, why not? Go ahead, and sod the proles!"
Despite all that, Lyon believes that Osborne has not been entirely honest in his claims and, later today, George will hear whether or not he is going to face any sort of reprimand. One thing that seems certain is that he will be required to pay something back, something said by the BBC to be a "relatively small amount of money." Not the full amount plus costs then, like Julie Brighouse? It seems safe to assume you won't be able to see Osborne picking up litter and removing graffiti in any Cheshire parks while doing community service, either. Pity, really - I'd take a few dogs down there the night before and get them to do what dogs do best.
Ms. Brighouse may be a benefits cheat, but we think her punishment was sufficient and we're sure she's very sorry. She really doesn't need to have the obvious fact that MPs are not subject to the same laws to which the rest of us must comply rammed down her throat too.