I’d like to write to you today about standards. Standards in Public debate; standards of those in the public eye, and standards of those ‘whited sepulchres’ who readily point the finger at one of their own in simulated horror, but recoil when the spotlight is turned upon themselves.
I would ask readers to examine the difference between the treatment of one lone M.P. Ian Paisley, the DUP MP for North Antrim; and the festering mob named but unashamed before, during and after the Telegraph ‘Expenses’ scandal broke .
Mr Paisley went on two holidays to Sri Lanka together with his family, and the Daily Telegraph alleges that he was supplied with a chauffeur-driven Mercedes along with all hotel accommodation; all paid for by the Sri Lankan Government. Now there is nothing illegal in accepting paid-for jollies from both foreign governments as well as large companies; if there was, approximately nine-tenths of both Houses of Parliament would be ‘guilty as charged’! Where Mr. Paisley seems to have swerved from the ‘path of righteousness’ is by not declaring these holidays in the Register of Interests in Parliament, and then lobbying on behalf of that Government. For that ‘high and mighty crime’, namely ‘serious misconduct’ (not declaring he took those holidays) he was slapped with a thirty-day suspension from sitting (and of course voting) in the Commons: and further faces a ‘Recall’ motion in his constituency; with a By-election for his seat if 10% of the constituents vote accordingly. Bit harsh? But more of that later on.
Let us now turn back the clock to 2009, and the whole Expenses scandal; for a scandal it surely was. True, the whole Nation rocked with laughter when the claims for ‘moat cleaning’ surfaced; as well as the ‘floating duck house’ and the hundreds of other scams such as ‘flipping’ the second homes’ addresses, so that repairs, refurbs’ and new furniture can and were claimed from taxpayers cash. But more serious items were also revealed, such as continuing to claim for mortgage payment refunds AFTER the mortgage was paid off. The ever-so-friendly apologists for murder, otherwise known as the five SinnFein MPs, despite never taking their seats in Parliament because that would mean that they would have to acknowledge The Queen as the British Head of State: claimed over £500,000.00 for the rent of three houses in London, all conveniently owned by the same Irish family: and all five stated that they were staying there constantly, despite neighbours denial of ever having seen any one of them near those properties.
The full list of the theft can be seen as carefully correlated in various online editions of the Telegraph, and is really too large to conveniently be excavated without a huge post, but some of the more egregious examples, in alphabetical order, include:-
Charlotte Atkins claimed more than £35,000 in renovations on her second home allowance including £20,000 for windows, £4,000 for the chimney, £9,000 for the bathroom and nearly £2,000 for the garden
Ian Austin split a claim for stamp duty on buying his second home in London into two payments and tried to claim it back over two financial years.
John Austin claimed more than £10,000 for redecorating his London flat, which was 11 miles from his main home, before selling it for a profit.
Ed Balls and wife Yvette Cooper “flipped” the designation of their second home to three different properties within two years. Mr Balls, the Schools Secretary, also attempted to claim £33 for poppy wreaths
Norman Baker asked if he could claim for a bicycle and a computer so he could listen to music and email family and friends
Greg Barker made a £320,000 profit selling a flat the taxpayer had helped pay for. He has agreed to repay £10,000.
Alan Beith claimed £117,000 in second home allowances while his wife, Baroness Maddock, claimed £60,000 in House of Lords expenses for staying at the same address. He also used his office expenses to pay for his London secretary to spend a month in his constituency during the last general election campaign
Sir Stuart Bell claimed £750 for food in December 2005, reduced to the maximum monthly amount of £400. Designated his second home as a flat in London and claimed £1,400 a month rent
Henry Bellingham claimed £1,500 mortgage interest per month for a flat in London. Mr Bellingham claimed a total of £85,845 in four years under the additional costs allowance.
The list goes on and on, but the scale of the scandal really overshadowed the truth of the whole thing, which was, put simply, nearly every one of these outrageous claims, if they had been submitted or attempted outside of Westminster, would have resulted in criminal charges!
But we should now return to the target for today’s ire, in Parliament that is; with the banishment and possible removal from his seat, of Mr Ian Paisley. What was it that was so wrong, so terrible, so inappropriate that thirty days suspension; the longest punishment ever doled out in Parliament was the only penalty? The man had apologised; he had stated that it was a lapse of memory and judgement, and it really is a grey area, where judgement about who declares what is unwritten. The committee acknowledged that there was “inconsistent guidance” in relation to registering such trips, but it did not “exonerate Mr Paisley from breaching the advocacy rule”.
Could it be that the real problem with Mr. Paisley’s holidays was that the family went to Sri Lanka, whose Government earned the opprobrium of many, including many British MPs, because they demolished a terror opposition by using the same tactics as the terror gangs, and would not apologise for their victory and survival?
As a final thought, remember that I mentioned the ‘whited sepulchres’ who professed horror, but were just as guilty as those which they condemned. I mention that because it was Sir Kevin Barron, chair of the Standards Committee, said they had concluded Mr Paisley was guilty of “serious misconduct and his actions were of a nature to bring the House of Commons into disrepute”.
Would this be the same Kevin Barron who, after selling his taxpayer funded home for a £500,000 profit, Barron began charging the taxpayer £1,500-a-month to rent a three-bedroom London home (also called “contriving a tenancy” by benefit fraud investigators) owned by shadow cabinet office minister Jon Trickett?