Yet again MPs are in the mire because of the astonishing behaviour of a Labour minister. The "mistaken" claim for two adult films just adds fuel to the fire set by Jacqui Smith's dodgy claim that her sister's home was her main residence. Last week it was another Labour minister Tony McNulty claiming expenses on his parents' address eight miles from his own home. Ms Smith has been quick to apologise for the "oversight" and will refund the money.
I imagine there will be a certain froideur in the Smith household for a period. But even when claims are "within the rules", our parliamentary representatives just don't seem to get it that their claims offend against common sense and any normal view of right and proper expenditure. Claiming second home allowance in an outer London seat as Mr McNulty has done is clearly indefensible but the same should be true for any London commuter constituency.
I have always made it perfectly clear that if I am elected MP for St Albans, I will always pay for my own housing - period. What right have I to be treated any differently from all the other London commuters in the city and district who have to travel back and forth with FCC and pay for their own homes? A quick scan of the They Work For You website allows one to see what all MPs are claiming.
Every Hertfordshire MP - nine Conservative and two Labour - claims Additional Costs Allowance for accommodation. None claims a larger sum (£22,110) than Anne Main. She has a "second home" in St Albans paid for by the taxpayer while she remains based in Beaconsfield. By contrast the six Liberal Democrat MPs representing commuter constituencies within a 60-mile radius of Westminster do not claim a penny under this expense heading. Not all politicians and not all political parties are the same.