Friday, May 22, 2009

Telegraph now on dodgier ground

Frank Little writes:

Apparently, the Telegraph is now trying to pin charges of misuse of expenses on Liberal Democrat MPs Sir Alan Beith (because he has declared he is interested in the Speaker's chair) and Jo Swinson (because she is in the forefront of moves to modernise Parliament. According to Stephen Tall on Liberal Democrat Voice:

Sir Alan Beith

The Telegraph’s story about Sir Alan relates to a rented flat in London he shares with his wife, former fellow Lib Dem MP [and former president of the party] (now a Lib Dem peer) Baroness (Diana) Maddock. You can read the story here. I assume the Telegraph is publishing now because Sir Alan is one of the early favourites to occupy the soon-to-be-vacant Speaker’s Chair.

The couple point out that they have tried to stick to the spirit and letter of the expenses rules by Sir Alan claiming only half the rent, and Baroness Maddock claiming only half her Lords allowance. She notes: “We have tried to claim half and half. I have always claimed half of what I could claim for and Alan only claims for half the rent. It isn’t an exact science. We tried to solve the rent issue by claiming for half in a system that isn’t perfect. We could have sat down and we could have worked out the half much more accurately perhaps, but we did our best. We have always been in favour of everything being out in the open.”

More to the point, at least as far as I’m concerned, this is a rented flat - so any improvements made will not benefit them financially, a stark contrast with some of the Telegraph’s genuinely serious allegations.

Jo Swinson

There seems (at least to my eyes) to be even less of a story here, as featured in the Express. Apparently some cosmetic items – for which Jo did not claim – appear on receipts alongside other items for which Jo has made expenses claims. This is all the excuse the Express needs to make the usual casually sexist swipes about Jo being “known at Westminster for the attention she pays to her appearance”. As Jo has long published her expenses in full on her website, I think we can safely file this story in the file marked ‘Desperate’.

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