Andy McSmith's Diary: Why do these troughers in ermine have a legal right to line their pockets?


The House of Lords has published details of expenses claimed by their lordships during August 2013. Since they convened for only one day that month, most peers claimed no expenses, but among the minority who did you will see – inevitably – the names of that trio of troughers in ermine, Lord Hanningfield, Lord Taylor of Warwick, and Baroness Uddin.

What unites these three is that their presence in the building is an embarrassment to other peers – and yet they almost never miss a chance to clock in and claim the £300-a-day attendance allowance to which they are legally entitled.

Baroness Uddin, formerly a Labour peer, was suspended from the House of Lords for 18 months in 2010 and ordered to repay more than £125,000 in expenses that she should never have claimed. Lords Taylor and Hanningfield are ex-Tories who went to prison for fiddling their expenses.

Last year, a Daily Mirror photographer waited outside the building to record how long Lord Hanningfield spent inside on days when he is claiming his £300. On one day, he was in and out in 21 minutes. Is there any other workplace where people who had been caught cheating on their expenses have an absolute, legally protected right to return and continue claiming, irrespective of whether they do any work?

Cameron’s £90 cut above

The award of an MBE for David Cameron’s hairdresser Lino Carbosiero, who charges his male customers £90 a snip, had MPs competing over who has the cheapest crimp. Nick Clegg revealed on his weekly LBC radio phone-in that he frequents Jam Hairdressing in Sheffield, which costs him £20 a time. The Commons leader, Andrew Lansley, topped that by telling MPs that he goes to Mr Polito’s, in Cambridge, where he is charged £15.

But the current holder of the austerity haircut award is the Labour MP Chris Bryant, who tweeted: “My last haircut cost £13.”

Meanwhile, the perpetrator of the worst haircut-related pun of the day was Nick Clegg, who dismissed the criticism of Mr Carbosiero’s gong by saying: “It’s a typical attack on someone successfully delivering cuts!”

Condom wisdom

Boris Johnson’s notion that Nick Clegg is David Cameron’s condom is disputed by Labour’s Angela Eagle, who – it is relevant to point out – was the first MP to come out as a lesbian. She told MPs: “I know I am not the world’s greatest expert in this area, but I thought you were supposed to be able to trust contraception.”

Labour’s drink problem

An email pings my way from the Labour Party containing a statement from the MP Toby Perkins, whom their press office identifies as the “Shadow Pubs Minister”. This does not mean that he is Minister for Shadow Pubs; it is supposed to mean that he shadows the Minister for Pubs. Only there is no “Minister for Pubs”. He is shadowing a chimera.

Speaker ganderflanks a bit

Ever since a guest on BBC Wiltshire used the word “ganderflanking” there has been a campaign in that part of the world to get the word into the Oxford English Dictionary. It means “aimless messing around”. Today the campaign gained significant ground by getting “ganderflanking” into Hansard, the official parliamentary record, after the MP for South Swindon, Robert Buckland, obligingly asked the Speaker, John Bercow, whether it was parliamentary.

Mr Bercow did not rule it out of order, although he suggested the word “aimless” is tautological in this context, unless in Wiltshire there are people who mess around with a purpose.

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