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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

People and Parliament: Jo Swinson MP's response

This is an excellent use of new media by Liberal Democrat MP, Jo Swinson on how Parliament should be using new media to engage with electors. A positive initiative shining out from the darkness and negativity around expenses and MPs' allowances.

She has been hammered in the Telegraph today. Her comments suggest that she has forgotten about Healey's advice of stop giging when you are in a hole. Claiming for cosmetics is pretty crass. I'm sorry I just can't take seriously someone who believes that the taxpayer should pay for eyeliner.
I have not see Jo's response to this but I think you have to remember that the Telegraph only have the receipts not the claims. Thus Swansea East MP Sian James allegedly claimed for chocolate coins except that she didnt. She bought something else at the same time and claimed for that. The coins were on the receipt but not claimed for. I suspect the eyeliner is something similar.
I'm sorry Peter but if you look at the story the whole receipt not part of the receipt was paid for. Sadly for those who do believe in democracy too many from all parties have been complete idiots. They didn't realise that one day someone called Heather Brooke would have the idea of using the FOI Act to look at MPs expenses. Everyone knows that without the FOI the system would have carried on.As a result the secret garden of political expenses was exposed to an amazed electorate. How anyone can defend taxpayers paying for their food when they have been responsible as the Guardian points out today for unemployed people receiving a pittance no matter how much NI they have paid is beyond me.
I dont disagree with you on the FOI point Jeff but this is the passage from the Telegraph report that makes clear that there is another page of the receipt they do not have. They also refer to the receipt not to what was claimed. Jo Swinson confirms what I said:

'Also among her receipts was a £27.94 bill from Boots, which included a £5 eyeliner, a lip liner for the same price, and a £12.00 “R&M Eye Kit”.

Contacted by the Telegraph, Miss Swinson said she had not claimed for the eyeliner, suggesting that it featured on a receipt that included other items for which she did seek repayment. No items other than cosmetics appeared on the receipt in question — it seemed to be the second of two pages, the first of which is missing.'
I'm sorry Peter some of her claims simply cannot and should not be defended. This isn't a party political point although I do think that some Liberal Democrats sometimes try to affect 'a holier than thou approach to politics'. In this sorry affair there are good guys and bad guys in all political parties. It isn't about ideology or political principle but about personality. I know Councillors who regularly travelled second class and claimed first. The system at the time was such that you could if you wanted to do this. But you didn't have to and nobody forced you to. In the same way no one forced any MP to claim for some of the idiotic items that have now come to light. There is an interesting article in today's Spectator,for example, by Rod Liddle praising Sarah Teather who seems to be one of the good guys. I thought that her comment that this was a scandal waiting to happen and her description of some of her fellow MPs as 'It's as if they have been blind' very interesting. As Liddle points out the contest in the new Brent seat between Teather and her Labour opponent who claimed £18000 for food and a jacuzzi could be very interesting.
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