First of all, let’s have a look at the sentiments expressed by our main performers on the subject of MP’s expenses:
“I believe the public are right to demand more transparency and openness when it comes to MPs staff, pay, allowances and expenses…” – David Cameron
“I believed it was vital to answer all media enquiries because clarity and openness is crucial to trust and confidence in the democratic process.” – Anne Milton
Now, let’s take a moment to see if they actually meant any of that….
I’m a poor, lowly constituent – and, arguably, a modest representative of the media – who’s having trouble getting answers to some pretty fair and straightforward questions about my MP’s expenses:
So let’s see how far I get going over her head and having a quiet word with her boss:
To: David Cameron
CC: Anne Milton
From: Tim Ireland
Sent: Tuesday, February 12, 2008 4:30 PM
Subject: Anne Milton’s expenses
I’m having a little difficulty getting some answers out of my MP, Anne Milton, on the subject of her expenses.
She seems pretty quick off the mark (if less than forthright) when the local newspaper calls, but when a constituent with a more modest level of access to the media gets in touch, it seems to take days/weeks to get a response (on those occasions when I’m not being deliberately ignored).
Below are the questions that I put to Anne Milton a few days ago. They relate to this article on my website and roughly 13K in expenses paid to her husband, Dr Graham Henderson:
1. Where did Dr Graham Henderson carry out this work you describe? In your parliamentary office, your constituency office, from home…?
2. What evidence can you show your constituents of the work you claim was done by Dr Graham Henderson?
3. Was the work you claim was done by Dr Graham Henderson directly connected to the Save the Royal Surrey campaign, and – if so – what proof can you show of this?
4. You have said that your husband has done some work in the past year for which he has not been paid. What reassurance can you provide that he won’t be paid retrospectively?
5. Have any other members of your family been employed in this or any other way by your office?
Pretty fair questions given the circumstances, and I’d like to think that:
a) I’m well within my rights to expect timely answers
b) Timely answers shouldn’t present Anne with any difficulty if everything is above board
c) Timely answers are the least one should expect from a member of the shadow cabinet, given your clearly stated position that they should lead by example on this issue
If you’re not too busy, would you mind awfully giving Anne Milton a quiet nudge or hitting her over the nose with a rolled-up newspaper or something?
I mean, I’ve written an article about it and – just now – have published these questions…
… and it simply wouldn’t do to have the answers arrive so very late that they appear to be (to put it delicately) carefully formulated.
UPDATE (14 Feb) – Finally some answers from Anne Milton. Well, *one* anyway. Anne seems to think that the following is a satisfactory response to the questions listed above:
“I would like to assure you that all the staff I employ work extremely hard to ensure that I give my constituents the best service possible.” – Anne Milton
So much for clarity, transparency and openness.