Thursday 21 May 2009

More paperwork for Lobbytroll

Sorry for the lack of bloggage recently. Truth is I've become a sort of reclusive paper troll.

Spending long hours sitting in the corner of MPs' offices sorting through endless piles of claim forms and receipts.

I'm doing more of the same today - The Daily Telegraph must've had an army working on their investigation.

I haven't found a great deal among the receipts of various backbenchers I've been going through yet.

One renovated his bathroom for £4,000 another bought a flat screen TV for £750 - but after what we've seen that doesn't raise an eyebrow.

Wednesday 20 May 2009

BREAKING NEWS: Ducks like rain

It's true, scientists have proved it - at the bargain basement cost to the taxpayer of just £300,000.

Defra forked out the cash to "ascertain the importance of bathing water to ducks by quantifying their motivation to gain access to water in which they can bathe".

The research was aimed at ensuring ducks are properly treated when kept indoors on farms.

Unfortunately there are no regulations planned which could require changes to the way farmers treat ducks. Important stuff.

The story was found by fellow regional lobby hack Matt Chorley who works for the Western Morning News.

Tuesday 19 May 2009

Tory Chief Whip has a dig at shadow cabinet member?

It sounded like it today after Patrick McLoughlin found himself in an awkward position.

Last week David Cameron tasked the West Derbyshire MP to chair the Tory’s review committee – which will judge whether any Conservative MPs have put in excessive expenses.

But after details of McLoughlin’s allowances emerged in The Daily Telegraph yesterday he’ll now have his own claims reviewed by that very committee.

His allowances were by no means the worst, but he did receive thousands of pounds for maintenance and repair on his Derbyshire home over four years.

Defending himself today he told Lobbydog: “You need to find a balance with these things – I didn’t claim for gardening, I see that some people claimed for that, but I didn’t.”

It could of course be a swipe at fellow Derbyshire MP Margaret Beckett who famously tried to claim for plant pots and a pergola.

But far more profligate was pint-sized shadow leader of the house Alan Duncan – who “volunteered” to pay back some £5,000 in gardening costs last week.

The Chief Whip will be hoping Duncan doesn't add him to his hit list.

Reshuffle rumour

Lobbydog has heard word that a big Labour reshuffle is coming over the next couple of weeks.

Changes will number in the double digits. Time will tell how reliable the source is.

Can someone come up with a decent name for the "MPs' expenses" story please?

"MPs' expenses" itself doesn’t really cut the mustard – you can’t even put ‘gate’ on the end, it doesn’t sound right.

If you were going down that road then ‘snoutgate’ or ‘troughgate’ might be a better fit – but the whole ‘gate’ thing is a little tired.

Anyway, if I’m going to keep writing about this over the next few days, and it seems I am, then I need a new name.

Any suggestions?

Monday 18 May 2009

Ferrets in a sack

There was something rotten about the scenes that followed the Speaker’s speech in the House earlier.

There’s always been an unsavoury feeling in the Commons when expenses have been discussed, but this was different.

Martin had just finished saying he was “profoundly sorry” for the expenses fiasco when MPs started standing up and angrily calling for him to go.

If you haven’t seen it, go and check it out on Parliament TV.

This blog has been calling for the the Speaker’s head since last year.

But today felt too much like that scene at the end of The Apprentice when candidates have to argue their case to avoid the chop.

Two of the candidates realise the other is in trouble and, in a bid to save their own skin, gang-up on the other to make him look bad.

Martin doesn’t need a whole lot of help at that, but let’s not forget they all had an expense account.

Brown: I'll support whoever....

All questions at Lobby briefing this morning related to Michael Martin’s standing.

When asked if the PM still thought Martin was doing a good job spokesman Michael Ellam gave this laboured response.

"The speaker is not appointed by the Prime Minister.

"It’s right that it is independent of Government and it’s right that the Prime Minister should support the individual selected to be speaker by the House of Commons."