Margaret Beckett

The Big Question: Are 'grace and favour' homes for ministers justified

The saga of MPs' expenses rumbles on, doing no good at all for the reputation of British politics. Geoff Hoon, the Transport Secretary, is among those who must be wishing these things could be kept secret, as they used to be. When he was Defence Secretary, he had three homes. It has now emerged that he claimed £50,000 in allowances for the cost of running one home in his Ashfield constituency in Nottinghamshire while he was letting out his London home to a private tenant and living rent free in a grace and favour apartment in Admiralty House. Alistair Darling and Margaret Beckett have also claimed housing allowance when they had grace and favour homes – all permissible under the much criticised House of Commons rules.

Alexei Sayle: A comrade in Bloomsbury

Alexei Sayle, the former Marxist comedian, has written a wince-inducing novel satirising the pretensions of British ex-pats in Spain. But these days his digs at the middle classes are fuelled by 'self-loathing'