Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Friday, 16 November 2012

Shameless! (part 2)

I've said it before, but the expenses scandal really is the gift that keeps on giving.

It's not been a good week for Lord Hanningfield; details of his corporate credit card spending have revealed not only a taste for the high life distinctly at odds with his courtroom claim to be a man of simple tastes but also that he was claiming for overnight hotel accommodation in London on the same night that taxpayers were funding his stay in 'the best luxury hotel in India'.

But if you thought last year's prison sentence might have shamed him into paying his own way these days as a form of recompense, think again! House of Lords figures released on Wednesday show that he pocketed the maximum tax-free attendance allowance for the 12 days he turned up in June - a total of £3,600.

You may remember that he and Baroness Uddin (another inspiration for 'Expenses-the Musical!'), despite initial claims of penury, both had a rummage down the back of the sofa and conveniently managed come up with sufficient cash to repay their dodgy claims - £30,000 and £125,000 respectively - and hop back on the gravy train along with Lord Warwick (a mere £24,000).

In fact, the Baroness went one better, initially asking to be re-admitted to the House of Lords straight away so that she could use her expenses allowance to pay back the money she owed, a gesture brazen enough to give Lord Hanningfield's 'two-continents-at-once' accommodation claims a run for their money.

And why are these paragons of virtue back in the Corridors of Power at our expense? According to the Independent's diarist, there was an attempt to reform the system on the part of David Steel, who proposed legislation to expel from the Lords those found guilty of dishonest practice.

A sensible idea, you might have thought, especially given the details that have emerged of expenses claims from the Upper House, but it met with opposition:
The idea has support in every political party, but Nick Clegg has blocked it because he fears that small reforms will weaken the case for abolishing the Lords and creating an elected chamber.
Which is, if you ask me, a bit like refusing to deal with a nasty rat problem because that would prevent a big enough outbreak of plague to justify burning the city.


  1. Perhaps Nick is hoping for a Life Peerage soon. In that case a by-election at Sheffield Hallma could be very interesting.

  2. That would certainly add an interesting dimension to the question; does he expect to stand a better chance of getting in as a result of a wholesale replacement process?


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