Don't celebrate Adam Afriyie just because the Windsor MP has a ‘clean’ expenses record

To do so sets a dangerous precedent whereby the politicians who can afford their own expenses get credit for being wealthy. Most MPs have a legitimate right to allowances.

Share
Related Topics

The Tory MP for Windsor Adam Afriyie got a big boost over the weekend with a number of stories appearing in the press indicating that he could be a contender for Conservative party leader if Cameron was to lose the election in 2015 (or perhaps sooner if “events” were to cause a vacancy to become available).

So far, so much froth. An MP that most people have never heard of sets a hare running for a future leadership bid. Good luck to him.

What concerned me though was in the inevitable "profiles" that appeared alongside the leadership bid rumour stories was the phrase "expenses saint". Adam Afriyie has never claimed for his second home allowance since he was elected in 2005.

The expenses scandal of 2009 was a seismic political event and parliamentarians are still trying to recover from the huge damage that their actions caused. There is no doubt that a number of them were claiming for expenses that were outside the rules. There is also no doubt that even those who were claiming within the rules were often claiming in a way that went against the spirit of those rules. The regulations have been tightened up and hopefully things are now much more transparent.

But because so many MPs were swept up in the scandal there are very few who were not in some way tainted by it. Even those whose claims were perfectly legitimate both in letter and spirit have seen their expenses questioned. The only way an MP can be totally "clean" on this, it seems, is to not have claimed at all. So not claiming a second home allowance is a big flashing neon sign that says "my hands are clean on expenses".

This is worrying. It is worrying because any MP (outside of London) realistically needs to maintain two different residences. We can argue about exactly how much this needs to cost and how much should be claimed but it is definitely not zero.

The only way that Mr Afriyie is able to not claim is because he is an independently wealthy man. Judging by some reports he is worth over £100 million.

Cost of the job

The whole reason David Lloyd George introduced a salary in the first place for MPs over 100 years ago was to ensure that people who weren't wealthy were able to become MPs. The expenses are supposed to cover the extra costs of running two different homes. £65K per year might seem like a lot of money but to live in two different places, travel between them and spend a lot of your time in London will eat away at that sum pretty quickly. The second home allowance specifically guards against this.

If the Windsor MP is able to scale the greasy pole using his lack of expenses claiming as traction this sets a disturbing precedent. It is putting down a marker that an important aspect of how an MP progresses up the ranks is by not claiming expenses. Of course, the MPs who are most likely to be able to do this are the ones who are very well off.

There are already lots of complaints about how we have a "cabinet of millionaires" and that they are out of touch with ordinary people. These complaints have some merit in my view. But if we want to ensure this is less of an issue in future we need to nip in the bud this idea that the best MPs are the ones claiming low or zero expenses.

I wish Adam Afriyie well in his attempt to pitch for the top job. From what I have read he is a diligent MP who may well deserve high office. But I hope he is not given preferment because of his expenses record. It is not a mark of how "clean" he is but how "rich" he is.

Venerating "expenses saints" is a risky game. Those of us who want more meritocracy in our political life should have nothing to do with it.

For more from Mark Thompson visit his blog

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: how to spell BBQ and other linguistic irregularities

Guy Keleny
 

South Africa's race problem is less between black and white than between poor blacks and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa

John Carlin
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own