Disappointingly, only four MPs face charges over their dodgy expenses claims - however, four is better than none, which is how many Acid Rabbi was predicting would find themselves subject to possible prosecution. It remains to be seen whether or not, if you happen to earn a basic salary of very nearly £65,000 a year and have a seat in Parliament, punishment will take the same form - each of the errant Members could face up to seven years in the nick if found guilty. Note the could - though not given to placing bets, we're willing to put at least a quid on none of them getting anything like that.
It's been a while since we last had a look at Elliot Morley, the MP for Scunthorpe, who finds himself subject to two counts of dishonestly claiming expenses (which is legalese for "being shamelessly on the fiddle"). The first alleges that, between 2004 and 2006, he falsely claimed an extra £14,428 on his mortgage allowance and the second that between 2006 and 2007 he had a further £16,000 on the same property . What do you think would happen to you if you were found to have claimed nearly thirty and a half grand you were not entitled to in Housing Benefit? Prison, in all likelihood, or at the very least you'd be ordered to repay the lot and complete a hundred hours or so of community service - which would be precisely what you deserved. Not the slap on the wrist that Morley's probably going to get. To be fair, he'd be asked to resign too - but he's been planning to step down at the next election anyway.
Elliot Morley faces prosecution over the £30,428 he allegedly dishonestly claimed to cover his mortgage. If found guilty, he probably won't go to prison for seven years like most other people would.
Then there's David Chaytor, another member for whom we reserve an especial loathing. The Bury North MP is alleged to have dishonestly claimed £1,950 for IT expenses and further amounts of £12,925 and £5,425 to cover the costs of renting two properties. "OK, fair enough," you may think, "claiming for rental costs sounds like legitimate use of the accommodation allowance." One small problem there - it appears that the two properties were owned by Chaytor and his mother. Mr. Chaytor also faces a possible seven years, but once again we suspect nothing of the sort will actually happen.
Jim Devine's case is unusual in that he faces prosecution for none of the allegations made against him when the expenses scandal first broke, when it was alleged that he had claimed £2,157 to pay for electrical work, using an invoice with a fake VAT number and address. Instead, he is charged with false accounting - namely that he used fake invoices to claim £3,240 in cleaning expenses between 2008 and 2009, £5,505 for stationery in 2009 and £2,326 for shelving. In the last case, the invoice was later shown to have been supplied by one Tony Moran - the landlord of a pub in Mr. Chaytor's Livingstone constituency.
Last but not least in the dock is Tory peer Lord Hanningfield, who has been suspended from the Parliamentary Conservative Party and who plans to step down as shadow Transport Minister, faces an impressive six counts of false accounting including "numerous" occasions when he falsely claimed for overnight stays in London - documentary evidence shows that he was, in fact, chauffeured to his home in Essex. Lord Hanningfield received a Rural Vision award in 2009 from the Countryside Alliance (an organisation for which we have very little affection, due to their apparent inability to recognise the many country-dwellers who support the ban on hunting with dogs) in recognition for his opposition to the highly unpopular proposed second runway at Stansted Airport and the closure of rural post offices; which, the Alliance claimed, demonstrates that he is a politician with the countryside's future at heart. If found guilty, it will be plain that his own wealth is actually the issue closest to his heart, as has been confirmed of most politicians in the wake of the scandal.
So what is likely to happen to this motley crew of reprobates? Seven years in prison is so unlikely as to be laughable (though in no way as laughable as seeing the whole lot of 'em locked up would be). I doubt we'll be seeing them cleaning up the dog crap and discarded syringes in their local parks, either, as we were hoping would be George Osborne's punishment were he found guilty of his own dubious expenses claims. The original and widespread furore that surrounded the whole debacle when it was first outed by the Daily Telegraph died during the Parliamentary summer recess, when a large percentage of the Great British Public decided to concern themselves with the X-Factor/Pop Idol instead and the baying for MP's blood has diminished to a whisper. Will they even be forced to pay back the money - which, despite the high sums, is unlikely to be the punishment it would be for anyone on the dole (or indeed, earning an average British salary) caught fiddling their benefits since all four are independently wealthy men who will not be forced into a life of drudgery as they try desperately to meet the repayments every month. Slaps on the wrists all round, before they shuffle quietly off to high-paying jobs on the lecture circuit/in finance?
Could it be there really is one law for the poor and another law for the rich and powerful? We shall soon know once and for all.