My favourite expenses claim: 'Nobody has tried to bully the Fees Office with quite the same charm as Sir Gerald'
Saturday 30 May 2009
When I heard about Douglas Hogg's moat, I started trying to think of something stupid to use as an example of what MPs might claim for next. But then Sir Peter Viggers went and did it for real with his duck island. I imagine Hogg must be furious, a bit like someone who's just broken the world long jump record at the Olympics, and thinks: "No one is going to beat that." But then someone comes up right at the end and does him with a duck island.
Sir Gerald Kaufman's £8,000 Bang & Olufsen TV is my favourite. I'm quite impressed that a man pushing 80 is so well up with the world's most exclusive electronic goods manufacturers. We all want Sir Gerald to be able to watch his tapes of Oklahoma! and Carousel – and all the other musicals he loves – in comfort. Nobody else has tried to bully the Fees Office with quite the same charm as Sir Gerald, who set a deadline of midday the next day for them to get back to him. He also represents the seat of Gorton in Manchester, which is the setting for Shameless and is an absolute centre of urban deprivation. The cost of his TV is probably the average income of most of his constituents.
How fickle we are. We've been seduced by the grandeur of moats and manure, and an MP whose ducks have a second home. We've been teased off the scent by John Prescott's £112 toilet seat (it's the reinforcing that adds the cost), and now by Rosie Winterton's bedroom soundproofing (there must be a joke in there somewhere). But the high point came early when the Home Secretary claimed taxpayers' money for the viewing of a porn film. On the one hand she was legislating to ban lap dancing clubs and to prosecute men who pay for sex, and on the other hand she was in the Commons doing Porn Minister's Questions every month. The Porn Secretary! I will die content.
Greg Dyke, former BBC director general
I loved Douglas Hogg's moat. It epitomises what people on the left always thought about the Tories, even if most of it isn't true. I actually don't think the duck island is quite as bad, because that just means you have a pond: if you have a moat, it means you live in a castle.
Paul Staines, political blogger
John Prescott's two loo seats are certainly among my favourites. It is also comforting to know that we pay for Gordon Brown's Sky Sports subscription. As an Ireland supporter, it comforts me to know that he sits there watching his team lose the rugby – even if it is at my expense.
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