Turn your back for two minutes and the Lib Dems are at it again, preaching piety and claiming superior probity and all the while they're dipping the till. Remember Clegg of Clegg Hall in the pulpit saying he was out to clean up politics, that MPs ripping off their expenses was a "symptom of a deeper malaise" and that MPs had been "abusing the system on an industrial scale". There was a new sheriff in town, though, a superhero - Nick would deliver "fair, decent, transparent politics". Of course, he'd need a few expenses to do the job - £83,824 should do it, including £160 a month for a gardener to prune his fruit trees and maintain his rose garden (no, honestly).
He had a damned fine rationale for it all, though, “It was in a state of complete disrepair, the garden was a complete eyesore, it hadn’t been touched for ages." Great reasoning - he bought a hovel so we should pay to clean it up - he can't be expected to wield a pair of secateurs by himself, after all, and it is "a modest semi-detached home" after all (you know, the kind of place that thousands of people aspire to have as their only home), not a palace... I wonder if he's stopped making claims on our money for his refurbishment of this white elephant he bought with our money?
And so to David Laws. He knew that he shouldn't have been paying rent to his partner since at least 2006, admitting that he and his partner should "probably have changed our arrangements". Probably? It goes further, though, the house was paid for partly by David Laws - and that was after the rule change that meant he was no longer allowed to pay his partner for accommodation. He was, in effect, paying himself rent for his second home using his Parliamentary expenses. Its different in detail but surely not in degree from Nigel Griffiths and his first office scandal or, for a more contemporary comparison, Elliot Morley's phantom mortgage.
David Laws has referred himself to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner - whoop-de-doo, I'm not sure I can contain myself. The behaviour to which he has admitted is criminal, he's committed fraud, he shouldn't be in the rector's office worrying about a bad report card, he should be in the police station worrying about a court case. Just to top off the ridiculousness of his position, Clegg and Cameron have both said that Laws might return to Government at some point in the future - I wonder who else they might be considering for a return to the fray?
We shouldn't be surprised, of course, the Lib Dems have a reputation for encouraging their MPs to use Parliamentary allowances in ways that were never intended.
Let's polish off wee Danny Alexander while we're at it (what is it with politicians with that surname) - there was a stooshie over his sale of his London home and not paying Capital Gains Tax. He was, of course, entitled to relief under the three year rule (as would Hazel Blears have been if she'd thought to claim it) and so not obliged to pay CGT. I can't help feeling that the biggest part of the story has been missed:
Mr Alexander bought his London home in 1999 when he was a press officer for the Britain in Europe campaign. In 2004 he got a job as press officer for the Cairngorm National Park (how did someone living in London get that job?), and in 2005 he was elected as an MP and immediately designated his London home as his second home in spite of not owning another home. He rented a place in Aviemore but the home he owned in London was what he called his second home.
Here's the thing, though - he'd owned the London home for six years before getting elected but as soon as he got elected he started spending money on doing it up, a new boiler, repairs to the roof, and so on - £37,000 worth in two years, then he sold it. Basically, he charged us for the costs of doing up a house he already owned and then he flogged it at a huge profit (about £150,000) and bought another (and charged us for the costs of moving as well) - I wonder whether he's been charging us for the refurbishment of this flat as well?
The Lib Dems - never knowingly underclaimed.
Mind how you go!