It is the time of year when I knock on a lot of doors. I am struck by the incredibly low regard in which politicians as a class are now held. The recent shenanigans over MP expenses have created a corrosive perception of "snouts in the trough". People find it frankly incredible that MPs could put in claims of up to £250 per item and not have to produce a receipt. From April 1, they have been shamed into reducing the figure to £25 per item.
But in all my jobs in the private and public sectors, I have always had to account for every claim down to the last penny.
It is dismaying that the Commons authorities are now taking legal action to block publication of the detail of MPs' expenses. They are doing this on the totally spurious grounds that there may be security issues in publishing MPs addresses. This may be the case for the very small number of politicians with past involvement in Northern Ireland and certain sensitive ministerial portfolios but it cannot justify a blanket protection for all backbench MPs.
Frontbench Conservative MP Grant Shapps from neighbouring Welwyn Hatfield, who has frequent late night and early morning television and radio interviews, has his only home in his constituency, commutes to London like everyone else and has claimed £3,244 on overnight hotel expenses. That seems quite reasonable. The train journey from St Albans to London is shorter than from Welwyn Garden City. Yet Anne Main claimed £22,100 in the same period for her living expenses. Maybe that is perfectly justified but there should be transparency so we can all see for ourselves.