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Are the Tories coming out worst from the expenses row?

May 12th, 2009

telegraph-tory-grandees-expenses

What can Cameron say to regain the initiative?

It feels like day 27 (it’s actually day five) of the Telegraph MP expenses expose but there’s another batch in the paper this morning and this will dominate the political news agenda again.

The paper’s introduction sums up the flavour of today’s focus and it is going to be tricky for the leadership to deal with – for it touches in some cases on a world that is totally different from that which most people are used to.

“The Daily Telegraph discloses how Tory grandees have received tens of thousands of pounds to maintain manor houses and stately homes. One claimed successfully towards the cost of a full-time housekeeper with a salary package of £14,000 a year, along with a claim including £2,000 for clearing the moat surrounding his manor house. Another was allowed to claim for a “helipad” to be maintained…..”

Among those listed in todays story are: former leadership contender David Davis who “.. spent more than £10,000 of taxpayers’ money on home renovations and furnishings, including a new £5,700 portico at his home in Yorkshire”. Another prominent name is the party’s most senior back-bencher, Sir Michael Spicer who “….in December 2006, submitted a detailed invoice which included “hedge cutting … helipad”.

Over the weekend Labour felt it was being victimised by the paper because all the focus was on then. I don’t think ministers and Brown Central will have the same view this morning.

The big question now is what does Cameron do? Will he be forced to take action and if so how widely will he go?

This is all set against the background of the latest Populus poll which has the Tories below 40% for the first time this year in any survey. The only poll gainers at the moment are the Lib Dems – but we are promised revelations about their MPs tomorrow. Will there be horror stories for Nick Clegg to have to cope with?

Experimental comments arrangements: The system of comments has been changed to reduce pressure on the server and speed up the site. We had got to a situation where massive threads threatened to bring us down.
The new structure brings in pagination as well as putting the poster's name at the top. Numbering has gone for the moment because of the difficulty of dealing with posts that get stuck in moderation. The number of comments per page has been set initially at 100.
There was a lot of reaction overnight and no doubt people will have their views today. The one thing we cannot return to is having 700 comment threads being loaded and re-loaded time and time again. That was killing PB.

Mike Smithson






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