Hogg stands down to spend more time cleaning his moat

More MPs expected to resign as anger grows over expenses scandal

Chris Green
Wednesday 20 May 2009 00:00 BST
Douglas Hogg
Douglas Hogg (REUTERS)

Douglas Hogg, the Conservative MP who claimed thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money clearing a moat on his estate in Lincolnshire, yesterday become the first victim of the expenses scandal after deciding to stand down at the next general election.

As well as claiming £2,200 for the moat work, the MP for Sleaford and North Hykeham asked the Fees Office for £14,000 to cover his housekeeper's salary and £18,000 for his gardener.

Mr Hogg said he wanted to give his local constituency party plenty of time to select a new candidate. "I entirely understand the public anger that has erupted over expenses," he said. "The current system is deeply flawed; we parliamentarians have got it wrong and I apologise for that failure which is both collective and personal.

"In view of David Cameron's campaign for an early election – which I strongly support – I have decided that now is the time to tell the Sleaford and North Hykeham Association that I will not be standing in the coming election. This will give them time to select a new candidate to best represent local and national interests."

Mr Hogg is likely to be the first of several MPs to fall foul over the expenses scandal. Tory insiders told The Independent that they expect Sir Anthony Steen, the MP for Totnes in Devon, to also stand down shortly.

Over four years he claimed £87,729, including payments for tree surgery, guarding his shrubs against rabbits, maintaining a separate cottage and overhauling his private sewage system, according to the Daily Telegraph.

MPs face discontent among their grassroots supporters. Constituency associations have called emergency meetings for Friday, at which MPs will face the wrath of local party members.

The Conservative MP Andrew MacKay, who resigned as David Cameron's parliamentary aide after it emerged that he and his wife Julie Kirkbride, who is also an MP, had claimed on two second homes, will address his Conservative Association at a church hall in Bracknell on Friday. A poll in a local newspaper found 67 per cent of respondents thought Mr MacKay should stand down.

The Tory MP Alan Duncan, who spent more than £4,000 on gardening, and his colleague Ed Vaizey, who spent £2,000 on furniture, also face pressure from local supporters. Michael Rook, the chairman of the Conservative Association in Mr Duncan's constituency of Rutland and Melton in Leicestershire, said he had been "taking soundings" from members about the MPs actions, and refused to rule out the possibility of deselection.

"There's a considerable amount of anger and disappointment that Alan is involved in this," he said. "It is a matter of principle. We are going to do nothing for the moment but we are listening to people's opinions. It's a question of restoring trust. It's difficult to gauge how much confidence has been lost." Yvonne Constance, the chairwoman of the Conservative Association in Mr Vaizey's Oxfordshire constituency of Wantage and Didcot, said he had been asked to "explain his actions" and that he felt "duly censured". Mr Vaizey is understood to have drafted an open letter to his constituents to be handed out by Tory candidates campaigning for the upcoming European elections. "We are asking him to explain himself very publicly," Ms Constance said.

Labour MPs are also due to face questions from their local Constituency Labour Party (CLP) on Friday. Among them are Vera Baird, MP for Redcar in North Yorkshire, who spent £286 on Christmas decorations, and Madeleine Moon, who claimed more than £4,000 for furniture.

Brenda Forster, who stood down as chairwoman of the CLP in Ms Baird's constituency last week, said she had been "shocked" by the MPs claims and that a meeting had been scheduled for Friday so the MP could explain herself.

"Many of the members are disappointed, because the people we represent are quite poor," she said. "We need to be reassured that these are the only claims she has put in. If we suddenly find out something else, it would shake my confidence in her. We'd have to go back to the drawing board."

Huw Morris, the chairman of the CLP for Ms Moon's constituency of Bridgend in south Wales, said: "Members will want to know what's happening and will be asking pertinent questions. I told them to do that rather than just vent their anger, that's only fair. I don't want any recriminations yet."

* See letter 22 May 2009 from Vera Baird MP

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