by Stephen Tall on July 12, 2014
So the Telegraph is back to its old tricks on expenses. Five years ago, the paper uncovered some serious abuses by MPs at the taxpayers’ expense – along the way, the paper was also (as I wrote at the time) “guilty of flaky fact-checking, unfair distortions and disgraceful smears”.
Yesterday the paper attempted, rather desperately, to re-live past glories by running the story, ‘MPs’ expenses: Ken Clarke bills taxpayer for 11p ruler’. It wasn’t just Ken who attracted the Telegraph’s ire though: ‘Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, was found to have claimed 43p for scissors. David Cameron, the Prime Minister, claimed the cost of a £4.68 glue stick and 8p for a box of clips.’
Yes, that’s right, folks, it’s a new scandal — apparently taxpayers are footing the bill for MPs’ office supplies. How very dare they? They should pay it all themselves out of their own salaries. Actually, scratch that: they shouldn’t even have salaries. In fact, they should pay us for the privilege of being an MP. Yes, much better they have a private income – that’s the only way we’ll get MPs who are in touch with ordinary people.
But seriously, though… Can we all maybe agree that office supplies are legitimate items of expenditure for MPs in their everyday business? And that, in the great scheme of things for which we should hold our elected representatives to account, spending 8p on a box of paperclips really isn’t worth a single column inch ever again?
* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.