“Greedy, petty, shameless… and we haven’t had the Tories yet!” was how The Independent on Sunday heralded The Telegraph’s ongoing exclusive on MPs’ expenses.
The paper provided a handy swingometer, locating MPs on a spectrum from “white-than-white” - that included our Alan Johnson - through to “in the brown stuff” where pride of place went to care minister Phil Hope.
His claims included £37,000 on refurbishments and furniture which The Independent said would have left his two bedroom flat “so stuffed with furniture that little if any room will be left [for him]”.
In between were “beyond the pale” and “red handed”, the latter featuring former health ministers Andy Burnham and Caroline Flint.
Documents obtained by The Telegraph (in an as-yet unspecified way) show the Commons fees office put its foot down over Mr Hope’s claims several times, sparing the taxpayer the £98 cost of an electric razor and £190 worth of houseplants.
He was allowed £120 for a barbecue and £61 for gardening materials, even though the newspaper’s sleuths discovered that, as of last weekend, the flat’s communal garden was “empty with no plants, nor any sign of the barbecue”.
The Telegraph couldn’t decide whether health minister Ben Bradshaw’s partner was his boyfriend or his civil partner (he is the latter) but either way, the existence of a gay partner and joint home-owner was clearly the most pertinent fact for the paper.
The newspaper did not mention whether or not shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley jointly owned his Cambridgeshire cottage and London flat with his wife. However it said his total £78,370 claims included the cost of decorating the cottage he later sold for £433,000, shortly before he transferred second home status to his London flat.
Mr Lansley denied the implication he “flipped” his residence to maximise his expenses and said he changed his main residence to Cambridgeshire when his daughter started nursery there.