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'Don't go into politics'

MPs zealously urge the public to save ... but what are their personal favourite money-saving tips?
Neil Hamilton and Jonathan Aitken weren't around to answer questions on the subject - but plenty of other MPs were. And their ideas on how to manage money effectively ranged from homely, to sexist, to downright Scrooge-like.

Perhaps this is not surprising. Of the more than 50 members of Parliament who took part in a recent poll on money management, 73 per cent admitted that they are still learning how to do it.

Some 59 per cent said that what little knowledge they had on the subject of money was gained from "bitter experience".

For most MPs, encouraging people to save was a top priority, although Labourite reformist zeal included making financial services regulation work better for consumers.

The poll, carried out on behalf of Virgin Direct, asked 26 Labour MPs, 18 Conservatives, six Liberal Democrats and one Plaid Cymru, a series of questions about finance, including their favourite money-saving hint.

Strangely, it was the Tories whose answers allowed an occasional glimpse of humour to shine through. Or at least it must have been in jest that Michael Jack, member for Fylde, told pollsters his tip was: "Buy Christmas presents in the summer sales."

And surely Alan Clark, newly elected MP for Kensington & Chelsea, can't have been serious in suggesting that one should "never write a cheque". Perhaps he always pays cash.

Meanwhile, Michael Mates recommended hiding his wife's credit cards as the way to save money - a suggestion which will no doubt find favour with many women whose husbands spend most of the family's money down the pub.

Robert Walter, MP for Dorset North, suggested "don't be greedy" as his favourite saying, which came too late for a whole slew of fellow Conservative MPs who found themselves out of favour in May this year precisely because of this public (mis)conception of them.

Sir Teddy Taylor's advice was among the most helpful: "Empty pockets every night into a large bottle. The result can be put towards a family holiday."

Unfortunately, the MP for Rochford & Southend East forgot to explain how someone's dirty hanky, bits of old fluff, half a packet of Polo mints and the house keys will ever help pay for a holiday.

Perhaps the strangest "helpful hint", however, came from Adrian Sanders, Lib Dem MP for Torquay, who recommended: "Don't buy shaving foam, use soap instead."

Other MPs' wise sayings included:

"Deep pockets, short arms" - Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley).

"Become a hermit" - Candy Atherton (Falmouth & Camborne).

"Don't have teenage children" - David Taylor (Leicestershire North West).

"Don't go into politics" - Nicholas Palmer (Broxtowe).

"Pennies make pounds" - David Crausby (Bolton North East).

"Start a pension now" - Marsha Singh (Bradford West)n