The first thing you are asked to say when you are going in front of a selection meeting to be adopted as a parliamentary candidate is that you are going to live in the constituency. Since you are also going to spend 60 per cent of your time in London, this means you are going to have to have two homes.
Most people cannot afford two homes. I could never have afforded two homes. We do not want to go back to the situation in the middle of the last century when the only people who could afford to be MPs were the very wealthy, on our side, and the trade-union sponsored on the other side, so it is right that the public pays for an MP to have a second home, and for the necessary upkeep.
And I say "necessary" because there is an enormous difference between having a widescreen television, and repairing the central heating. I never had a television in my second home throughout my 17 years as an MP. I never had a washing machine – I borrowed somebody else's. I got the crockery from my brother's old vicarage, but each room was painted once, and the exterior twice.
When you are spending most of your time in London, you have to pay for someone to cut the grass. Who else was going to cut my grass? The cat? The cat did not even live in my second home.
I have reservations about David Cameron's idea of a scrutiny committee, because on balance I would have preferred to have waited for the report from Sir Christopher Kelly rather than have everybody rush in with their own solutions. It's not helpful, and it's not as if we are going to have to wait until the second coming for Kelly; it is only until July.
I have called for a dissolution of Parliament, but there is a genuine worry that if people become disillusioned with all the main parties because of this, they will turn to the extremists.
But I must say having people from the journalist profession passing judgement on anyone's expenses is a bit like having Satan heading a commission on sin.
Ann Widdecombe is Conservative MP for Maidstone and the Weald
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