MPs’ Expenses

Making you pay for their porn won’t stimulate the economy

In one sense, it is rank hypocrisy that any journalist should bash poor Jacqui Smith for inadvertently claiming her husband’s porn films on expenses. As anyone with any experience of Her Majesty’s Press can testify, the expenses claim is the genre where the reporter is expected to exercise whatever creative gifts he or she may possess. It seems to be a kind of sacred tradition of Fleet Street.

Shortly after arriving in the newsroom of the Times, more than two decades ago, an old and wily reporter invited me and another trainee out to lunch in order, as he put it, to “show us the ropes”. We had a doleful Japanese meal, in almost total silence, and all paid our way. I was wondering what kind of tutorial this was, when the reporter picked up the bill with a flourish. “See this?” he said. “This is a good bill,” he said, and trousered it.

“But who are these people?” I used to ask one distinguished leader-writer, when I read his restaurant claims, consisting of a series of chunky bills for “lunch with contact” or “dinner with contact”. Was there any way they could perhaps be identified, for the sake of verisimilitude? “I am afraid not,” he would sigh. “Security reasons.” Or there was the TV reporter I used to know in Brussels, who contrived to claim for a lawnmower in spite of living in a fourth-floor flat with no garden.

It is a fact of British journalism – the Telegraph excluded – that when you read an account of something of which you happen to have independent knowledge, you will often see how the facts have been slightly sandpapered to improve the story, or how the quotes have been artistically pruned of their vital saving clauses, and it is no surprise that this poetic licence finds its way into the composition of expenses. How many hacks have sat up late at night watching the porn film in the hotel bedroom? How many have then allowed it to appear as “media” or “extras” on their bill, and claimed back the cost? Hmm?

So is it not the height of absurdity and humbug that the media should now be beating up the Home Secretary, and heaping fresh humiliation on her husband, just because he happened to spend a few restful hours watching Green Emmanuelle and Wife Swappers? Show me Fleet Street in high rage against political sleaze, and I will show you an industry with a historic and collective addiction to the mild embellishment of expenses. So why do we hear this pant-hooting anger about Richard Timney and a stray tenner? Is it not the height of double standards?

Well, no, it isn’t. In the first place, journalists are regularly fired for fiddling their expenses, and fired on the spot, with none of your gentlemanly parliamentary inquiries. But the biggest and most fundamental difference is that in every case (except for the chap with the non-existent lawnmower, who was employed by the BBC), the victims of the fraud are the proprietors or shareholders of private media organisations.

When Jacqui Smith’s husband sent in the bill for his night of rapture with Raw Meat Three and Onan the Barbarian, he sent it to the taxpayer. He was seriously proposing that you and I should pay, and had it not been for a separate inquiry now going on into some other aspect of the Home Secretary’s allowances, we would indeed have paid. That is the real shocker.

It is only by the purest fluke that this dodge has been uncovered, and as the G20 leaders prepare to arrive in London to consider the merits of yet more state spending and borrowing, the news could not have come at a more embarrassing time for Gordon Brown. When Barack Obama checks the New York Times website this morning, he will see that the Home Secretary has ingeniously managed to break the rules of politics, by getting embroiled in a scandal that is both sexual and financial at the same time. “British Minister Promises to Pay for Porn” is the headline, which surely deserves a prize as the most ludicrous news story ever generated by a Home Secretary and holder of one of the great offices of state.

In Germany, where Chancellor Angela Merkel is already having doubts about the wisdom of trying to boost the global economy with more borrowing and more spending, the news has broken like a thunderclap. The German press rejoices in the hilarious “Porno-Affäre” of “die britische Innenministerin”, and Chancellor Merkel will arrive in London with a powerful argument in her quiver.

Yes, we all want to stimulate the global economy – that is why world leaders should cut the cackle and do a deal on the Doha Round. Yes, there is a great deal of sense in continuing or even stepping up the investment in shovel-ready infrastructure projects that will deliver jobs and growth now, and long-term economic benefits. But Mr Timney’s porn bill has brilliantly illuminated the problem of excessive and untargeted public spending.

With a budget deficit of £157 billion, and with a national debt heading for two trillion pounds, the British public has suddenly woken up to the sheer scale of Labour waste in the past 10 years. That is why two thirds of people now want to see cuts in spending, and why nine people in 10 now think that Whitehall could be run more efficiently.

There are absolutely no economic benefits in subsidising Mr Timney to watch TV (and I don’t care what he watches), except possibly a tiny performance fee to Green Emmanuelle, wherever she is, and some dosh for Virgin Media – and it is outrageous that these causes should be considered worthy of taxpayer support. There is no case for a fiscal stimulus if we continue to allow waste on this scale, and if Mr Timney wants any further physical stimulus he should blooming well pay for it himself.

43 thoughts on “MPs’ Expenses”

  1. Fraud is fraud. The other fundamental difference is that we expect our elected officials to behave as real leaders should, holding themselves to the highest standard rather than the lowest.

    “The lowest standard you accept is the highest you can expect from others.”

    Cheers,

    Tom.

  2. Mr Johnson is completely right and he uses his ironic technique of seeming to say one thing and then surprising you with the opposite with great skill. The real master of this trick, though, was Josef Goebbels.

  3. After I stopped laughing at the subtitle, it was good to appreciate someone who is so honest about the fact that lots of people cheat on their expenses, not just MPs. I was far angrier about Jacqui Smith’s role in the Damian Green affair than I was about her oversight in charging her home entertainment to expenses.

    Yes, the Mayor has goaded me into confessing MY OWN PORN SHAME. When I was very young, my sister and I decided to treat my parents to some cinema tickets and overriding my sister’s sensible choice of film, as was my wont, I picked the movie. I thought a French film would be a good choice and in all innocence, picked EMANUELLE.

    My parents’ stunned expression on their return is something I will never forget.

    My other porn connection, again with my sister, was laughing at the titles of porno movies and making up some of our own. Yes, hours of innocent fun were spent in this way as we would chortle at SEX TOY STORY 2, AARON’S ROD, INSPECTOR GADGET, HARD MAN GOOD TO FIND, and LAWRENCE OF A LABIA. My favourite was always BUFFY THE VAMPIRE LAYER.

    Yes, Boris is certainly using his ironic technique of saying one thing when he really means another, because it is clear he enjoys laughing at the titles along with the rest of us.

  4. How I just love it when Boris’s new post is soooo in tune with the current news! Very often he writes about things that makes him sound like he was living in another planet. Like those East Enders, Coronation Street shows where the characters don’t mention or talk about things like the Olympics, the football world cup or the G20 Summit… Have they been talking about the recession in those shows?

    Boris, please, you should write more about current news so your readers can add their comments thus making your blog more interesting and ALIVE.

    Anyway, these fiddling MP3s are just beyond a joke now. Last Wednesday they inserted a new rule into their Expenses Guide Book saying from now on all they have to do is ask themselves if it is morally right that they want to claim an expense. If to them it is, then it is OK for them to claim it. And that nobody can say they are fiddling at all. What a joke!

  5. “…the British public has suddenly woken up to the sheer scale of Labour waste in the past 10 years.”

    This is indeed the real scandal.

    We should get off the subject of the Smith family’s viewing habits, quit the smart, risque jokes and get serious. How about some sympathy for Mr. Timney? because he’s not feeling himself tonight.

  6. Catherine, you must be joking, yes? Do you really think that Jacqui Smith’s husband was watching those porn films on his own and NOT with Jacqui lying beside him on their bed together?!

    Now, she threatened to separate from him if he did not apologise to the NATION! Oh, bloody hell! The mind boggles! Just like what Tessa Jowell did when her husband was caught out taking money from that fiddling Italian PM in return for untrue statements. Who is her spin doctor? Alistair Campbell? Oparh Winfrey?

    Easy isn’t it? Just fiddle. If you are caught, just apologise and everything will be OK!

    Just think about those poor pensioners who are chased by thugs sent by the councils to chase after them for unpaid pennies in council tax!

    This rotten country needs pulling down and rebuilding.

  7. I agree with Boris, I think that just like the track your MP’s system where you can see what they voted on you should be able to download their monthly costing sheets and they should be online for people to see. So that when they have to justify their expenses, you can see them without any letters or access to information requests.

  8. We mustn’t be sidetracked from the very important issues raised in Boris’s article, even if we do have a few minutes of innocent fun. It doesn’t really matter what film Mr. Timney was watching, in fact that is none of our business.

    As David Cameron said, his main concern is the second home that Jacqui Smith still insists is her main residence.

    I agree with you about the poor pensioners, it is so upsetting and sad to think of how they are struggling.

    On BBC2, NEWSMIGHT, Jeremy Paxman showed us a couple with two kids, fighting to save their home, because they have been made redundant from Woolworths. They haven’t found jobs yet. I do most sincerely hope that the programme has produced some job offers for them. Their anxiety and upset were heart breaking and the little daughter was saying “I must be strong for my mum”. How many people are in the same situation?

    MPs obviously regarded their expenses as extensions of their salaries, to be spent as they wished, the system was lax and some of them took advantage by stretching the facts.

    The nation has had a terrible shock because we realise just how profligate and careless this government has been with our money.

    On THIS MORNING, one of the presenters made a big thing of the fact that there were not enough plates for the meals of the G20 summit. They have to wash up the plates from the starter to use them for the dessert. Kate Garraway said “You hear about over spending, but Gordon doesn’t even have enough plates!”

    Oh no Kate Garraway, that won’t wash! Just because Gordon is careful with his own money, does not mean he is careful with ours!

  9. Its interesting to read Boris saying, “…there is a great deal of sense in continuing or even stepping up the investment in shovel-ready infrastructure projects that will deliver jobs and growth now, and long-term economic benefits.”.

    -as Boris heads up TFL which is cutting budgets and pushing out much needed infrastructure improvements like stations refurb’s and upgrades across the London Underground network. So that’ll be a no then, to delivering jobs, growth and long term benefits, and a yes to short term short sighted polices.

  10. Boris, you do seem surprisingly well informed of the names of some porn stars and their films!!

  11. “This rotten country needs pulling down and rebuilding.”

    The country’s fine, it’s the people that need ‘rebuilding’, ‘re-educating’, rather educating altogether. There is very little leadership to get the process underway. Boris was on to a good thing when he recommended greater focus on poetry – it’s only a tiny start but it’s a start.

    Education! Education! Education!

    Our modern educational systems have – in just a handful of decades – got entirely rid of the wisdom of the ages and in a bid to be wiser than our forefathers, we have allowed the word ‘education’ to mean nothing more than ‘economic utility’.

    Economic systems do not produce happiness of their protagonists unless they are accompanied by a society which aims at the edification of its citizens. We cannot achieve this by the majority wishing fantasy for themselves whether they be made of ‘celebrity culture’ or ministerial exploits financed by the taxpayer.

    ‘Culture’ (capital “C”) sets up certain very defined goals that echo Man’s ultimate identity. He then aims at those goals and finds his happiness in their attainment – the struggle itself is noble.

    Today we have no leadership, no ‘North’ to which to direct our talents; the Queen sits quietly in her palace, silenced by her ministers who no longer speak to the things that should ever make this country great again – and we pay for this sorry state of affairs….

  12. http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/article2351304.ece

    Details of every receipt submitted by MP3s the last 4 years will be published this summer. BUT they have 1 month to tidy up their papers- officially meaning they can edit out anything that might reveal their home addresses or take out any purchases that are not covered by expenses rules ( then why claimed for them in the first place?!).

    But there are fears it will also give them time to get rid of proof any embarrassing claims.
    —————-

    Gay Gordon did not have enough plates for his G20 dinner guests? Who leaked this story? Alistair Campbell? Oprah Winfrey?

  13. That’s why we have said all along: This country needs Sharia laws. If you watch porn, we will chop your willy off. If you fiddle expenses, we will chop your hands off.

  14. http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/article2351304.ece

    Read all about it. This summer, full details of every receipt submitted by MP3s over the last 4 years will be published. BUT they have 1 month to tidy up their ‘papers’ first- like editing out their home addresses or take out any purchases that are not covered by Parliament’s expenses rules. ( Why claimed for them in the first place? ). BUT there are fears it will also give them time to get rid of any embarrassing, greedy claims.

    Gay Gordon did not have enough plates in his kitchen for his G20 dinner guests? ( Zzzzzzzzzzzz….). Who leaked this story? Alistair Campbell again? Or was it Oprah Winfrey?

  15. Jacqui Smith, Labour Home Secretary, spends £178 million a years on advertisings on her department ( Tesco only spends £86 million a year on their commercial adverts! ).

    Her 2 new adverts are: ‘Reprt to police anything suspicous that you think might link to terrorist’ and ‘The police will respond to crime alerts.’

    2 Questions:
    -Why daren’t Jacqui Smith kick out those terror suspects? One of them is a fake, failed asylumseeker. And all of them are on social benefits paid for by the British taxpayers right now.

    -Isn’t that what the police are paid to do- responding to any crime alerts?

    Silly questions. But if Jacqui Smith is in charge of our country’s security, we might as well make Anjem Chandoury our PM.

  16. ” This country has not been successfully invaded since William the Conquerer in 1066, yet most of our laws are now made in Brussels by unelected commissioners who impoverish the people of the EU while making fortunes themselves.

    At the same time, the Hungarians threaten that 5 million unemployed migrants will head West unless we bail them out. How much do they want? About £160 Billion !

    The EU costs about £1,000 per year for every man, woman, child and baby in the UK. How can this conceiably worth it? ” Stuart Wheeler, English multi-millionaire.

    Yo!

  17. Under Parliament’s rules, MPs who live outside inner London can claim up to £24,006 a year for a second home, either in their constituency or near Parliament. (So, Jacqui Smith modestly claims only… £23,500 a year).

    MP Harry Cohen, Labour MP, declares his caravan in windy Essex as his… main home! And his London pad his second home, claiming more than £300,000 on second home allowances since 1990.

    Jacqui Smith, Labour Home secretary, claimes her younger sister Sara’s home, a BBC reporter, as her main home. And her home in Redditch where her husband and 2 children live as her second home, claiming £23,500 per year ever since she became an MP. But Sara’s neighbours in London now claim they rarely see Smith stay over night in her sister’s house at all- meaning Smith goes back to Redditch most days after work or stay with Sara’s as a lodger the odd nights. Local estate agents in Sara’s area say it only costs about £6,000 a year to rent a bedroom like that.

    Beside second home allowance, MPs can claim back the cost of running their second home (?!)i.e decorating, furnishing, entertainments… this running costs allowance is about £26,000 a year.

    Smith’s bills include: A Camillia potted plant £9.98, a plastic bath plug 88p, 2 big screen TVs, 2 washing machines… People now ask if she gave 1 TV and 1 washing machinne to Sara in London?

    Yo!

  18. I don’t care which party a Member belongs, he or she should be honest and above suspicion. So if someone needs two homes then they should at least be in different parts of the country, and not within the same city. But why should there be a need to claim for cable TV? Help with a mortgage yes and basics like a bed, some furniture and kitchen implements (as with the DHSS they will give to people who need help) and that is it. Anything else is just luxury and should come out of their own pockets like the porn.

  19. someone, on the Forums, says they have “Made a formal complaint to Channel 4” about the Dispatches programme on Channel 4.

    There’s nothing to complain about. The programme presented facts and events. We were left to draw our own conclusions.

    Unlike Boris Johnson’s campaign, which contained rumour and innuendo that was never substantiated (eg Radio 4 news one day: boris johnson says his website has been hacked…)

  20. I would say all MPs are entitled to second home allowance (about £23,000 per-year) plus the cost of running their second home (about £26,000 per-year). The rule is they must provide two different addresses. And then they have to decide which one is their second home in order to claim the running cost allowance and spend that money on it rather than on their relative’s home. And then they use another relative’s address as their main home. But they know how to beat the system: just claim they bought something for their second home (then give it to their relatives).

    Of course, most MPs say their actual family home is their second home so they can spend the running cost allowance on their OWN home. I would say, in Smith’s case, she bought two television sets and two washing machines then gave one each to her sister. Some MPs might even bought another second house and had it done up and furnished and have all the big receipts like building works, furnishing in their first second home.

    Smith says her main home is in London (but it really belongs to her sister). Yet her sister’s neighbours say Smith is rarely there, how comes she calls it her main home?

    Sinn Fein’s five MPs claimed £680,000 in expenses last year, including £100,000 for their second homes, even though they refuse to take their seats in the Parliament. That means they never set feet in London, yet they use their friends’ London addresses as their main homes. And their actual family home in Northern Ireland as their second homes.

    This summer, MPs’ expenses claims will be published in details. BUT they have one month to ‘tidy up’ their paperworks. Officially, it says so they can edit out anything that might reveal their home addresses or take out purchases not covered by expenses. But there are fears that it will also give them time to get rid of any embarrassing, greedy claims:
    http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/article2351304.ece

  21. I mean, ” bought another second ‘second home’, have it done up and furnished and had all the works billed to their first ‘second home’ so they can hand the big receipts to the Parliament … ‘.

    Bloody hell, me and my dodgy English !

  22. Comment by Sue Terry and Sue Poole from Manchester:

    “Bloody Hell! People said we were bad but these cheating MPs are worse!”

  23. Oh, bloody hell, I forgot to tell you this- the Sun said today that one of the films Jacqui Smith’s husband watched was Brokeback Mountain. Her husband claimed he had a big collection of all cowboys and John Wayne films at home.

  24. BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN is one of the most beautiful sensitive film ever made. This choice just shows they have good taste.

  25. ps. As well as appalling taste. But that is their private business. One of the worst things attributable to Jacqui Smith was her handling of the Damian Green affair. Since then she has gone from bad to worse She is a terrible Home Secretary and should resign.

  26. It was a joke. Of course, Jacqui Smith’s husband watched porn in their bed at 11.45 PM with Jacqui lying beside him dressed in a sheer babydoll nightie AND we the taxpayers have to pay for that !!!!

    Google:

    £200M BENEFITS BILL AS OUT OF WORK POLES FLOOD BACK

    Amazing!

  27. Gordon used the word “global” 26 times in his G20 summit speech, but if there is one story that has gone global it is the Jacqui Smith/husband’s viewing habits story. If there is a Cabinet reshuffle, Gordon should make Jacqui Foreign Secretary because everyone abroad knows her name!

  28. I can’t get involved with this crap. Politicians, you can’t trust any of them. All I want to say is, hold off on the bike scheme, Boris. It’s not working in Paris, and it will be more of a flop in London: sadly. While I’m here, Angela- you are naughty!

  29. Someone mentions Dispatches above.

    For those who missed the Dispatches programme, the transcript of Boris Johnson’s conversation with fellow Eton public schoolboy Darius Guppy were as follows:
    More than once, Johnson tries to find out how severely Collier is to be injured. Guppy tells him “not badly at all”….. Johnson appears to be afraid of detection. “If you **** up, in any way,” he warns Guppy, “if he suspects I’m involved…”…
    Guppy later interrupts: “But Boris there’s absolutely no ****** proof:you just deny it. I mean, there’s no proof at all.”… Eventually: “OK Darrie, I said I’ll do it and I’ll do it. Don’t worry.”… Guppy: “Boris, I really mean it, I love you and I will owe you this”…

    ———————————————-
    Boris Johnson’s office describe it as inconsequential. Is it, and should it be?

  30. Good on ya Boris. You are doing a great job. There seems to be a bit of Boris bashing going on at the moment. There is a credit crunch, Boris is supposed to be saving money and something has to go. Dammed if you do or don’t as the saying goes.

    Heaven forbid that we should have old Ken back.

  31. I heard that Boris Johnson’s team claimed a thousand pounds in taxi fares to get to the meeting about Heathrow.

    I also understand that Boris Johnson gets a quarter of a million pounds a year for writing his bit in the Telegraph and a few other columns.

  32. Boris,
    Is not the very nucleus of the problem regarding our “honourable” mp’s expenses the fact that they never pay the full market rate for absolutely everything, and thereby get a distorted view of what their money is actually worth?

    When they actually manage to attend The Houses of Parliament, for a hardly challenging full year, consisting of roughly 30 weeks at 3.5 days a week, they are totally insulated from the true street costs of everything?

    The Houses of Parliament are the best club in the whole world, with the best stocked fine wine cellar in Europe. When these wretched over worked MP’s actually find time to wind down at the end of a hard working day, they can drink the best of drinks, heavily subsidised by the good old sucker tax payer. When they pop into one of the many House of Commons canteens, they can again have a nourishing snack – again heavily subsidised by the tax payer.

    When they go home, worn out after an arduous, brain sapping weeks work (3.5 days maximum), they can order their households weekly shopping to a maximum of £400.00, before they have to declare their ill gotten purchases with an itemised expenses claim!

    Tell me, dear Boris, just what do our poor MP’s actually spend their salaries on? I suspect that it is salted away for the hard days when they are no longer elected?

    Regards,

    RAB

  33. Journalists’ personal morals are irrelevant. Their job is to report on political corruption. If they fiddle their expenses that’s a matter for their employers. We are the employers of the Dr Jecquel-ine Smith blob. She’s blatantly on the take and it makes me PUKE. It also makes me puke that Gordonisamoron says it’s a personal matter for her that she’s got her husband to help her fiddle her expenses. Why did Ken lose the election? Largely because he tolerated the corruption of his henchmen even when it was quite blatant and public. Bye bye Gordonisamoron.

  34. its rather sad that her husband had to use tax payers money to get aroused. As a Tory MP, isn’t she capable ? Bet Boris is. She’s politically impotent it would seem. Neglect in the bedroom will always lead to compulsive spending. Could be worse – he could have been caught cottaging in an MnS number, or possibly an SnM one..
    Boris, fancy dinner?

  35. “Education! Education! Education! ”

    Absolutely. We are certainly getting enough ‘education’ coming out of Downing Street. The word ‘spongers’ suddenly springs to mind. Not content with a salary that many people would be happy with, but no, these parasites leech from the public purse to feed their own insatiable greed.

    Legalised criminality, pure and simple.

  36. All well and good. I applaud Mr Jihnson for his excellent article, supreme common sense and, let us not beat about the bush, sparkling sense of humour. And it is a relief to know that he didn’t use any taxpayers’ money to finance the swimming pool, tennis court and other agreeable amenities which now embellish his former constituency home and from which he will no doubt profit – and by heavens, no one I can think of deserves it more – in good time.

  37. I am utterly ashamed by the conduct of our MPs from all parties. What a wonderful example they are to our young people, I know they do not have a lot of respect for the British People otherwise they would not have manipulate the the laws to suit them selves, but what about Self Respect. I think any MP who has swindled our money and who has been honoured by the Queen should have their OBE MBE ect/. taken from them

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