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Honourable? Don’t you believe it

Conservative MP and so-called “Tory grandee” Anthony Steen is to become the second MP to announce that he is stepping down over his expenses claim.

The Totnes MP claimed tens of thousands of pounds worth of OUR money to pay for the upkeep of his “country mansion” in Devon, including work on 500 trees, leaking pipes, a wrought iron fireplace and lighting.

Yesterday another Tory MP, Douglas Hogg, resigned over expenses he claimed for having a moat cleared at his stately pile. He is otherwise known as the 3rd Viscount Hailsham.

Three points here – the first is that both of these men are long-standing MPs – Steen has been an MP since 1974, while Hogg was first elected in 1979.

These are people who know the rules of Parliament intimately, they know how the system works and how best to make it work for them – one wonders how many other expenses they have claimed over the last 30+ years that we are still unaware of?

Secondly, while it may sound like these people have done “the honourable thing” by announcing they are stepping down, one should remember that by “stepping down” this does not mean that they will be resigning immediately.

“Stepping down” means they will not seek re-election, so they will continue as MPs until the next elections, whenever that may be, and continue to benefit from all the trappings of grandeur and the perks that the post of MP brings with it.

Finally, they will also benefit from the pensions and other benefits that come to former MPs, including lucrative seats on gravy trains including NGOs, non-executive directorships in business or on government quangos, or even seats in the House of Lords.

Some punishment eh?

So don’t be fooled by the faux show of remorse by these people – what really grates is that had I, or any ordinary member of the public tried to get away with claiming for the upkeep of their homes against the public purse, say through our income tax or VAT returns, we would fully expect to be languishing in a jail cell now.

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