Margaret Moran: A morality tale of greed, 37,000 stamps, and a charming home in Spain

Our diarist on the extravagant claims of a Labour MP, the Miliband's habits being repeated through the generations, and the ancestors of a likeable Lord

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The Independent Online

Even before the MPs’ expenses scandal blew up, some people were wondering how the then Labour MP Margaret Moran – who turned out to be the biggest fiddler of them all – managed to stack up such enormous claims. Five years ago, the leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Luton council, David Franks, wondered how anyone could spend £11,820 in one year on postage stamps – enough to send nearly 37,000 letters out first class – not to mention £22,109 on housing costs, when the permitted ceiling was £22,110. He wondered whether any of this money was going into the home Moran was known to have in Spain.

A spokesman curtly replied that this suggestion was “ridiculous”, though in the light of the evidence presented in court it does not seem ridiculous any more.

There was another story which sounded ridiculous but turned out to be true. It was that Moran was using parliamentary notepaper to pin notices in Spanish and English to trees and gateposts telling people not to park on a road behind her Spanish home. She denied it, but one resident kept a copy, which was published in The Daily Telegraph. Moran is now a broken woman, but it was her greed that brought her down.

Forget Ed and David, now it’s Sam and Dan 

There was an alarming revelation in the 37th paragraph of a long account in yesterday’s Daily Mirror of a day out on the campaign trail with Ed Miliband, by the paper’s deputy political editor, James Lyons. Mentioning that the Labour leader is finding time to be with his two sons, Daniel, three, and Samuel, two, it revealed: “Samuel has started to push his older brother around.”

Younger brother shoving older brother around?

Reed doesn’t bother waiting for result

Candidates in parliamentary elections are not supposed to take the result for granted. In Corby, the Labour party machine has been scrupulous – boring, even – in their insistence that they are not confident that they have won. But I note that two Labour councillors in Lambeth have put their names forward for the election of a new council leader which takes place on Monday. The incumbent leader, Steve Reed has resigned with effect from 29 November. That is the day of the by-election in Croydon North, triggered by the death of the Labour MP Malcolm Wicks. Councillor Reed is the Labour candidate.

The colourful ancestors of a likeable Lord

Robert, the 13th Earl Ferrers, whose death aged 83 was reported yesterday, held the rare distinction of having served in the governments of five prime ministers, starting with Harold Macmillan in 1962 and ending with John Major, 35 years later. He was also a beneficiary of the strange practices of the House of Lords. Henry Shirley, the third holder of the Shirley family’s hereditary seat, was mad. On his death in 1745, the title passed to his nephew, Laurence Shirley, whose behaviour was so appalling that his wife managed the rare feat of obtaining a divorce on grounds of cruelty.

In 1760, he was hanged for murdering his steward. Naturally, he remained the 4th Earl Ferrers until the moment that he ascended the scaffold, but once he was through the trap door, his brother, Laurence, took over the title and all that went with it. Even when most of the other hereditaries were booted out of the House of Lords, the 13th Earl retained the family seat because everyone liked him so much.