Mondays are bad enough for most people. I’m not too keen on them, myself. For MPs, today must have been a day full of dread. After a long recess in the summer, and the seaside shindigs of Conference season, they came back to the new session of Parliament. To add to the Monday feeling, most of them will have had a letter from Sir Thomas Legg regarding expenses that they’ve been claiming over the past five years.
Some will have been given a clean bill of health. Some will be asked to provide more information on particular claims or pay back the money relating to them. We don’t yet know which MPs have has which, or how all of the latter group will be responding – there have been hints that some MPs will resent the retrospective application of limits that were not in place when the claims were made.
So far, we know that Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats, has been asked to pay back £910 because he claimed over £1000 in some years for gardening. Gordon Brown, Prime Minister and leader of Labour, has been asked to pay back £12,45.10, mostly because he claimed more that £2000 a year for cleaning, but includes £302.50 for gardening in the same way as Clegg, and £1396 for a bill that was mistakenly paid twice.
I have to say that I was surprised at the amounts that Brown is being asked to pay back. On the one hand, there were no stated limits for cleaning or gardening claims, but on the other hand, the £1000 and £2000 being retroactively used are not unreasonable. Certainly this is politically very bad for the government, and for the PM personally.
However, the Tories should not be quick to condemn. Firstly, because Cameron is in the category of having questions to answer, and secondly because until we have a picture of how all MPs have acted, they can’t be sure that there are no prominent Conservatives with major problems. Some of the ‘questions’ may lead to more than just a request to repay.
This is going to rumble on for some time yet.