Just when we were all getting fatigued with stories of the Commoners raiding the cash box, The Sunday Times brings us fresh tales of skulduggery in “the other place”. One Labour peer and one Lib Dem peer are accused of some serious fiddling of allowances.
Lord Clarke of Hampstead makes some sort of a fist of it. A true Labour peer, (starting out life as a postman before climbing the trade union pole to the top) Lord Clarke does a full mea culpa in the paper. His admissions are simply toe-curling. He admits to regularly falsely claiming overnight allowances, pocketing around £18000 a year and, more shockingly, that he was told to do it “as a way of getting remuneration in the absense of salary”. Worringly he ranked as the lowly 169th highest claimant for overnight expenses across 2007-2008. The cat, as they say, is well and truly amongst the pigeons.
The Lib Dem peer Lord Dykes of Harrow Weald is an altogether a different matter. The paper states that Lord Dykes has claimed £66,000 since 2004 by claiming his main home is in Normandy – despite one Normandy neighbour stating that “they are here only one or two weekends a month. It is a second home”. Lord Dykes response to the paper thus far has been only to say that his main home is in France.
Maybe his neighbours are mistaken. Maybe he does live in France and can, as Agent Orange identifies, easily explain how he clocked in 139 days in the House of Lords in the year 2007-2008, and maybe he was too busy (or in France?) to clarify his position with the Sunday Times more fully.
But the question must now be, who within the party is advising Lord Rennard and Lord Dykes to stay quiet? And if they are not being advised by the Party to stay quiet, if indeed, they are defying the party by their refusal to explain themselves, then why is no action being taken? This is doing the party harm.
I am not sure why it took 4 days for the Federal Executive to issue a lamentable 5 point plan on expenses that I could have written in ten minutes. I am also not sure why we as a party are so forthright on our suggestions for reform of the system, and so backward at putting our own party in order.
But action must surely be taken now by the party, or it will be the party itself that will have to face reform.