Saturday, May 09, 2009

Geoff Hoon's expense claims and journalists' ignorance of East Midlands geography

Jonathan Brown has a piece in the Independent today looking at MPs' expense claims. He visits Kirkby-in-Ashfield in Geoff Hoon's constituency and reports the experience of one constituent who had found it impossible to speak to him:
She said she had sought Mr Hoon's help once over a problem but was not impressed. "It was like talking to a brick wall. In fact, I never actually got to speak to him, it was his secretary. They tell you 'Phone CAB, phone the local authority'. It was a waste of time."
Brown goes on to say:
Mr Hoon has had none of these difficulties in making the system work for him, it seems. He presently commands a ministerial salary of £141,866 and has built an impressive property empire reportedy (sic.) worth £1.7m since joining the Government. His portfolio includes a Georgian townhouse in central London in addition to his sprawling £600,000 Derbyshire constituency home.
There is just one problem here. Kirkby-in-Ashfield and the whole Ashfield constituency are in Nottinghamshire, so how can Hoon have a "Derbyshire constituency home"?

According to an earlier Daily Mail report, Hoon lives in Derby. And Derby is 20 miles from Kirkby-in-Ashfield.

Hoon also owns a holiday home in the extraordinarily select Suffolk resort of Walberswick. Hence the wise words of Jason Zadrozny, who will be fighting Ashfield next time:
"When he is claiming for three properties, you hope at least one is in the constituency."


HE Elsom said...

Hoon's homes look indefensible, but I'm not sure that "the system" involves an MP dealing with every problem a constituent ever has. There's a legitimate debate over whether MPs are there first to do casework, to protect and advance the interests of their constituencies or to advance the manifesto and principles on which they were elected, and of course different MPs reach different balances. But surely an MP only needs to intervene if the normal channels have failed. Suggesting that a constituent tries the CAB or their local council first is perfectly reasonable, as long as it's sympathetically done and the MP isn't constitutionally adverse to meeting constituents.

Incidentally, if constituents do want this sort of service from MPs, they're going to have to accept that they pay caseworkers to help provide it.

Jonathan Calder said...

It's the journalists I am really annoyed about here.