Still in the duck house? Life after the expenses row

At the last election, dozens of politicians left under a cloud. Oliver Wright and Kevin Rawlinson ask what they did next

Thursday 11 November 2010 01:00

Derek Conway

Claim Employed his two sons as researchers – despite one of them being a full-time student. He also successfully claimed office expenses for a family-owned house 330 miles away from his constituency.

What he did next Swapped the green benches for the lights of a television studio at Press TV, a channel funded by the Iranian government. He says he doesn't miss the Palace of Westminster as much as he expected. "Some former colleagues have had a dreadful post-parliamentary time," he said, adding: "I have been back once for a coffee and once for lunch and did not find the return stirred painful memories."

Kitty Ussher

Claim Avoided paying £17,000 in tax on the sale of her home in her former constituency of Burnley.

What she did next The former Treasury minister and one-time rising Labour star is now director of the think tank Demos. She said she was "relieved" to be out of the Commons because of the strain on her family life.

"The working hours were frustrating – starting in the afternoon and working late into the night is difficult if you have young children," she said, adding that the fallout from the expenses scandal had not followed her out of public office and into her new life.

Lembit Opik

Claim £30 for two fancy dress wigs from Hamleys on his office expenses.

What he did next Always a showman, Mr Opik has since tried his hand at stand-up comedy – to mixed reviews ("more a self-referential discourse than a club set", said The Independent). He has also secured himself a new 21-year-old girlfriend and is currently in Australia, preparing to take part in I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here. Expect to see him on Strictly Come Dancing next year.

Barbara Follett

Claim She used £25,000 of taxpayers' money to pay for private security patrols at her home.

What she did next Since leaving Westminster, she has found a new position in the family book business, working for her husband, the author Ken Follett. She is chief executive of his company, which has offices in Stevenage and employs 16 people. Two months ago, his latest book, Fall of Giants, was published and the couple are now on a worldwide promotional tour.

Ian Gibson

Claim Mortgage interest and bills on a London flat which was his daughter's home.

What he did next A scientist, Mr Gibson is now working for free ("I'm not a train for hire," he says) developing Europe-wide cancer strategies. He is to tour Yale, Havard and Princeton giving talks on science and politics. "I don't miss the crazy schoolboy politics of the Commons," he says. "But I do miss the chance of talking to interesting people. I also miss the Parliamentary Football Team."

Sir Nicholas and Ann Winterton

Claim Received more than £80,000 for a London flat owned by a trust controlled by their children.

What they did next Since leaving the House at the general election, Sir Nicholas and his wife have been enjoying what they describe as a "busy retirement", as well as "renewing their relationship with their family" after 30 years in politics.

But Sir Nicholas admits to some guilty pleasures – such as watching the BBC Parliament channel. "You can't completely put politics behind you, but it is a pleasure not to be under so much pressure," he said.

"It was a way of life for such a long time, and now I have more time to think about other things. We are still very involved in our constituencies but we don't have to do the same hours."

Julia Goldsworthy

Claim Spent thousands of pounds on expensive furniture a few days before the deadline for using up parliamentary allowances. She has promised to pay back £1,005 for a leather rocking chair.

What she did next Life is good for Ms Goldsworthy who, despite losing her seat, found herself back in Westminster (and in Government) a few weeks later as a special adviser to the new Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander.

She even received a pay rise. As an MP she was paid £65,000 a year – now she earns £74,000. But the expenses aren't as good.

Andrew MacKay and Julie Kirkbride

His claim Andrew MacKay was forced to resign as David Cameron's parliamentary aide after it emerged that he and his wife had been claiming money on both of their homes, meaning they were both effectively "second homes".

What he did next Moved into lobbying with the global PR firm Burson-Marsteller. However, his job description apparently does not extend to dealing with the media. Speaking via his employer, MacKay said he "does not do interviews".

Her claim Formerly shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Julie Kirkbride claimed £1,000 for computer equipment ordered by her brother and delivered to her home

What she did next After standing down from her Bromsgrove seat at May's general election, she landed a job with the Westminster-based lobbying firm Tetra Strategy, which is run by the former Labour Party staffer James O'Keefe and his business partner Lee Petar.

Ms Kirkbride, who is reported to earn nearly £100,000 working for the company, refused to answer questions about life after Parliament, saying only that she was "quite happy" with how things had been going before suggesting that The Independent "finds someone else to speak to".

Geoff Hoon

Claim Requested taxpayer-funded expenses for two properties at different times – once while he was living in a grace-and-favour Government apartment.

What he did next After standing down as an MP in May, Hoon set up TaylorHoon Strategy, a consultancy with the former head of McDonald's in the UK, to advise businesses bidding for outsourced contracts in the wake of the spending cuts. This was despite being secretly filmed touting for business by Channel 4.

Yesterday he admitted leaving the Commons had been "an adjustment process", but that he was enjoying his new life. "The biggest difference is that I have much greater control over what I do," he said.

Jacqui Smith

Claim Ordered to apologise after naming her sister's London home as her main residence and her family house in Redditch as her "second home". She also famously claimed for a pornographic pay-per-view movie which her husband took the blame for watching.

What she did next She has applied to become vice-chairman of the BBC Trust, which carries a £77,000 salary for a two-and-a-half day week – more than an MP's salary. She remains tight-lipped about her new life. "One of the great things about being a private citizen is that I don't have to tell journalists what I'm doing any more. So I'm not going to," she says.

Sir Peter Viggers

Claim Submitted an invoice for a floating "Stockholm" duck house, pictured, costing £1,645 for the pond at his Hampshire home. It has since become an embodiment of the expenses scandal.

What he did next When contacted by phone, Sir Peter said he was on a train near Lisbon in Portugal and would not be speaking to the press. "I am happily employed," he said. What is known is that the offending duck island has since been sold to a Wolverhampton business centre, with the proceeds going to charity.

Additional reporting by Enjoli Liston

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