Andy McSmith's Diary: Nadine Dorries claims she will work as an MP ‘for free’ – but read the small print

Our man in Westminster

Nadine Dorries, the Tory MP with an amazing gift for hogging the headlines, has done it again with her announcement that she is going to stop claiming expenses. It means, according to her blog, that she “will be representing Mid Bedfordshire for free!”. She says she is doing this to put herself in a better position to “argue for reform of the system or put forward the case to scrap expenses” and to spare her staff the “constant stress that scrutiny and investigations bring about”.

It is a spectacular gesture from an MP who loves to spring surprises, though a cynic might think that it helps to divert public attention away from a different issue between Ms Dorries and the Commons authorities. There is an ongoing investigation into why she has never declared in the Register of Members’ Interests any payment from her appearance last year on I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! She says she has not personally been paid, though people do not usually appear on TV reality shows for nothing. She has recently declared a directorship and shareholding in a small media consultancy.

And her announcement does not fit some headlines it has generated. Ms Dorries is not planning to give up on MPs’ expenses altogether. A footnote at the end of her announcement says she will go on claiming for “running the office, postage, staff salaries and constituency mileage”. She will cease to claim for “personal” expenses, including rent and costs associated with keeping a London flat, which she has to have because of Parliament’s strange working hours.

In 2012-13, her expenses totalled £30,717. Of that, £16,263 was for rent and other costs associated with her London flat, plus a small amount for food – claims she says she will forgo.

There was also £4,319 in travel costs, though it is not clear how much of this is “constituency mileage”, which she proposes to continue claiming, and how much is for travel to and from Westminster, which she is volunteering not to claim. Another £10,118 was under the heading “office costs”, which, to judge from the final sentence of her blog, she will still claim.

If she intends to forgo expenses worth up to £20,000 a year that she has the right to claim off the taxpayer, it is an indisputably generous gesture. But on an MP’s salary of £65,738, even after deductions, it is not quite working “for free”.

For Eric Pickles, there is such a thing as a light lunch

George Osborne must be heartily regretting the contrived photo shoot which was supposed to project him as a man of the people, eating takeaway burger and chips at his desk as he polished his big Commons speech, now that a sleuth from The Sun has established that it was a Byron burger costing nearly £10. At Downing Street’s morning press briefing, a spokesman was asked: “Has David Cameron ever had a Byron burger?” He replied: “That’s a side-order question.” I ought to be attributing that comment to a sauce close to the Prime Minister.

Eric Pickles, meanwhile, has found a stylish way to get back at the Chancellor’s jibes about his weight. As I pointed out this week, the boys at the top end of the Cabinet table think it is okay to ridicule the Communities Secretary over his waistline. Today, he followed in Osborne’s footsteps by tweeting a picture of himself polishing a speech. The difference was that Pickles had before him a modest salad.

Why Ozzy was out of tune with Blair

Tony Blair made a lasting impression on Ozzy  Osbourne, but not a favourable one, to judge from an interview with the star of Black Sabbath that was published in ShortList magazine.

“I was at a charity do a while back, and Tony Blair’s looking over at me,” said Ozzy. “This was when the Middle East thing was going on – we’re sending boys over and they’re coming back in f***ing boxes. He comes up, and I thought he was going to say, ‘Would you mind going out to play to the troops?’ but he said, ‘I was in a rock band once, but I could never quite get the chords to “Iron Man”.’ Are you f***ing kidding me? Is that all you’ve got to say, you d***head?”

The former Prime Minister was the lead singer of a band called Ugly Rumours as a student at Oxford University.

“He was a pr**k,” quoth Ozzy. Then the conversation turns to royalty. “When I did that f***ing Jubilee thing for the Queen, Prince William came up. We’d just played ‘Paranoid’, and he said, ‘Why didn’t you play Black Sabbath?’ I’m like, ‘What?’”

He concluded: “Lovely bloke. Can you imagine him headbanging at the royal Jubilee? Prince Harry in Vegas was f***ing great! That’s what you should be doing if you’re royalty. You can get anything you want – so why not?”

Nice work – if you can get a permit

As expected, the downfall of Australia’s first woman Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, has put a halt to the spin-doctoring career of the former Downing Street adviser, John McTernan – at least for now. No longer the Prime Minister’s political secretary, he is nevertheless staying in Australia to cover the upcoming election as a journalist. He must be glad of that work permit his old boss granted him, which caused some fuss in the Australian parliament. Meanwhile, the gloom of Ms Gillard’s first full day out of office will have been lifted, I am sure, when she answered the phone and it was David Cameron on the line, commiserating.

independent.co.uk/mcsmith

News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Travel
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn