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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Easy targets

A number of people have commented how it is that despite the exposure of a great deal of abuse of the allowances system by many MPs it is only those lower down the hierarchy who are being deselected or punished by the respective party's 'star chambers'. So how will David Cameron react to the latest revelations about his Shadow Chancellor, George Osborne?

This morning's Times reports that Mr. Osborne “flipped” the designation of his official second home from his London residence to his constituency home after taking out a £450,000 mortgage on the property.

They say that the Shadow Chancellor bought the Cheshire farmhouse close to his constituency ten months before winning the Tatton seat in June 2001.

Instead of taking out a mortgage on the property he funded the purchase by increasing his borrowing on the London home where he and his wife had lived since 1998.

After his election he designated the London house his “second home” with the Commons authorities, even though it was his main residence, so that he could claim the mortgage interest payments on his expenses.

Two years later Mr Osborne took out his first mortgage on the house in Cheshire and made that his official second home. He has since claimed up to £100,000 of taxpayers’ money to cover interest payments on the farmhouse, which is situated on the edge of Peak District National Park.

The arrangement also enabled Mr Osborne to reduce the loan on his London home, which he later sold for £1.45 million, to less than £200,000.

To be fair I should report Mr. Osborne's reaction to these allegations. He said that he had made no personal gain from the flip and that there was no impropriety or suggestion of wrongdoing. He said that after being elected an MP he had been advised by the Commons’ Fees Office to declare the London house as his second home so that he could claim expenses for his mortgage interest payments until he was able to change his loan arrangements.

Still, as the Times points out, this does pose a dilemma for his leader. Will Cameron refer George Osborne to be investigated by the Conservative Party? We will have to see.
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