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

Sunday, 6 April 2014

'How do you solve a problem like Maria?'

Just when I though 'Expenses: the Musical' was distant history, along comes more inspiration in the form of the menacing Mrs Miller. Don't be fooled by the winning smile; she clearly knows where the bodies are buried.
Parliamentary commissioner Kathryn Hudson had found Mrs Miller over-claimed by £45,000 [half of the total amount she claimed] for expenses towards mortgage interest payments and council tax on a house which she shared with her parents. 
But the House of Commons Committee on Standards [in some cases, judgement by her peers indeeddecided she only needed to pay back £5,800 to cover over-claiming of mortgage expenses, resulting from her failure to cut her claims when interest rates fell.
As it happens, the media silence on the subject of MPs forgetting to alter their claims when mortgage interest rates went down was raised here in the Tavern back in May 2009, when Elliot Morley and David Chaytor - remember them? - admitted that they submitted their claims in annual bundles and had both overlooked the small matter of their mortgages having been paid off already.

Ms Miller's 'second home', on which she claimed almost right up to the maximum allowance of interest subsidy for several years, was mortgaged for £525,000, despite having been originally purchased for a mere £237,500. There is something very disturbing about a system that has allowed those whose decisions may profoundly influence the housing market to profit from price increases through effectively interest-free property loans.
The commissioner believed she should only have been able to claim expenses for interest payments on the original 1996 mortgage of £215,000. The committee, made up of MPs and lay members and which has the final say, disagreed. 
I feel this calls for a song...

How do you solve a problem like Maria?
Shouldn't this bring a cabinet minister down?
How should the voters view the way Maria
Borrowed against her residence in town?

Many a thing you know you'd like to tell her;
You have to admit it looks quite underhand,
To make the public pay
When you've mortgaged all the way
Then added on at least 300 grand.

Oh, how do you solve a problem like Maria?
And MPs expenses getting out of hand?

Her answers were confused,

The committee was bemused
By her efforts to procrastinate and jam

The enquiries asking whether
She had fleeced us; altogether,
Its quite obvious she didn't give a damn.

She managed to invest
In a comfy London nest
And she moved her aged parents in as well,
While claiming all the while
Basingstoke was more her style;
The whole thing has a very nasty smell.

How do you solve a problem like Maria?
How do you stop her throwing her weight around?
How do you find a word that means Maria?
I can think of a few, but they all have an ugly sound!

Many a thing the voters want to tell her
Many a thing she ought to understand
But Cameron says she can stay
And the MPs have got their way
A swift apology and all's in hand.

Oh, how do you solve a problem like Maria?
How do you make her pay back forty grand?


  1. West End Story? Maria? Sung by Dave And The Diddling Osbo's?

  2. Thank you, Julia!

    Demetrius, you and Margo both...


    (3m45 onwards)