Through the MP keyhole

Glittery loo seats or designer chairs? Annie Deakin names the politicians with bad taste and those with style
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The Independent Online

Call me shallow but I want my country’s leaders to set an example; not just in moral and social situations, but also in terms of design and fashion. The financial horror of the politicians' expenses has irked the whole nation in more ways than one. The monetary implications are appalling - but so are the exposed interior styles.

Pillaging from the public purse is one crime. Spending our hard earned cash on atrocities such as a glittery loo seat and hanging baskets is quite another. The design crowd went up in arms when it was revealed that John Reid expensed a £24.99 black glitter loo seat from Homebase. What was going through his mind? The thought of the former Home Secretary going home to a glittery loo seat is too much to bear. With such dodgy bathroom taste, Reid deserves to be the butt of our jokes.

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Like sarcasm, lavatorial humour is nowhere more appreciated than in Britain. To our puerile glee, the expenses scandal threw up wonderfully indiscrete loo revelations. In addition to Reid's sparkly number, it emerged that John Prescott claimed for the repair of a broken loo seat not once, but twice in two years. Best not to dwell on those thoughts… To add insult to injury, the former Deputy Prime Minister added more expense claims; one £580 receipt revealed to all his sickening-sounding saffron carpet. 

Next in line to be slated on the style front is "Housing" Minister Margaret Beckett. Oh, the irony of her job title when, quite frankly, her £600 claim for hanging baskets has left home editors quivering. And as for Jacqui Smith, it wasn’t the expensed adult movies that riled me the most but her DFS-style sofabed, dining table combo and "antique-style fireplace". It conjured up unsightly visions of The Royle Family.

It’s not all doom and gloom on the design front in parliament. Amidst a cacophony of dowdiness, there is the odd style-conscious MP who could lead our country into a sophisticated design future. Junior minister Kitty Ussher was entangled in the scandal. Ussher had written to request an expenses-paid makeover of her rundown Victorian town house, "Most of the ceilings have Artex coverings. Three-dimensional swirls. It could be a matter of taste, but these count as ‘dilapidations’ in my book!" It was swindling the system but at least, for a renovation of some style.

Their financial means remains indefensible but for some MPs, their choice in furnishings is commendable. The OKA Chinese-style Manchu chest (as claimed by Tory Michael Gove) certainly didn’t help him carry out his parliamentary duties but at least it is beautiful. Rising Liberal Democrat Julia Goldsworthy bought a chic £1,200 leather rocking chair from designer furniture store Heal's.

People often say that you don't know someone properly until you’ve seen their home. Last year, when David Cameron welcomed ITV into his lair, it wasn’t his political messaging that enthralled the nation but his interior style. As husband of fashion icon Samantha Cameron and son-in-law of OKA founder Annabel Astor, it's no surprise that Cameron's house has the look of an interior designer. His mirror ball silver pendant lights by Tom Dixon and framed poster of a Bergman/Rossellini film is tasteful and refined.

Seeing the expenses scandal unfold has been like watching a series of Sir David Frost's TV show Through the Keyhole. Shallow or not, I've learnt more about our MPs in the past month than years of their erudite lecturing.

Annie Deakin is Editor of