In the past week the international media has exploded with the animalistic behaviour of those involved in rioting across the UK. Commentators
everywhere are finding remarkable the blatant loss of social fabric, and blame the riots on everything from disenfranchised youth, austerity measures,
unemployment, and even the overpayment of sporting personalities, racism and religion. The main assessment of the looting across London, however, is
that it has nothing to do with a statement of politics, and everything to do with greed. There is one simple, underlying cause for the civil unrest
throughout the streets which is being entirely ignored, with the actions being incorrectly dismissed as simply the work of yobs and hooliganism.
Only 15 months ago, in May 2009, the rorting of the expenses system for British politicians was leaked to the mainstream media. Although the
politicians, terrified at the prospect of having their claims aired to the wider public, fell over themselves to make claims of ‘accounting
oversights’ and ‘human error’, the published expense statements highlighted a deep and inherent culture of flagrant and gross misuse of
taxpayers’ money for personal gain.
At what point does this swindling of public taxpayer funds for personal gain become looting? The overwhelming image of news reports with regards to
the ransacking and looting is rioters tearing plasma and LCD televisions off the walls of stores before running off into the night. Can falsely
claiming expense accounts really compare with looting a flatscreen television?
Claim: It is claimed the junior minister had a £450 widescreen television delivered to his family home in Wales and then claimed it on his allowance
for his second home in London.
Claim: Veteran Labour MP Sir Gerald Kaufman is alleged to have claimed £1,851 for a rug imported from a New York antique centre and tried to claim
more than £8,000 for a television.
It seems that so long as you pay for delivery, you can steal what you like. One man’s suit is another man’s hoodie.
Despite the expenses system limiting claims to those things which are essential for the parliamentary duties of politicians, some claimed expenses
that are simply well beyond the lifestyle of the average person, yet were happy this lifestyle to be funded at the taxpayers’ expense.
Claim: Submitted claims for more than £2,000 to clear a moat around his Lincolnshire estate.
SIR PETER VIGGERS
Claim: Claimed £30,000 in gardening expenses, including £1645 for a "duck island" in his pond.
SIR JOHN BUTTERFILL
Claim: Did not pay capital gains tax after making a profit of £600,000 from a house funded by the taxpayer. Lodged claims under second home allowance
for his six-bedroom country house, complete with swimming pool and extensive grounds. He was reimbursed to the tune of £17,000 for servants'
It is important to acknowledge that the people making these claims find themselves amongst the wealthiest individuals in the country. They are already
the owners of multiple properties, some with over 40 properties to their name. So surely people with this sort of financial worth can be expected to
cover at least the basic expenses of daily life?
Claim: Expenses submitted by the Grimsby MP included 67p for Ginger Crinkle biscuits and 68p for Branston pickle.
Claim: The MP for Stockton-on-Tees claimed for a £5 donation that he made at a church service to commemorate the Battle of Britain.
Claim: The MP was reimbursed for a 59p box of matches, and two boxes of firelighters worth 99p each.
Perhaps what is even more of a slap in the face is what has become known as ‘flipping’, where MPs use taxpayer funds to extensively renovate
properties designated as ‘second homes’, before switching this to their ‘primary home’ and using taxpayer funds to extensively renovate
another property. Even more are claiming mortgage repayments for homes which have already been paid off in full.
SIR ALAN HASELHURST
Claim: The deputy speaker claimed £142,119 in second homes allowances since 2001, despite having no mortgage on the property.
Claim: The MP claimed nearly £13,000 for a mortgage he had already cleared. Between September 2005 and August 2006, the Labour backbencher claimed
£1,175 a month in interest on his Westminster flat. However, Land Registry records show the mortgage was paid off in January 2004.
Claim: The former environment minister claimed £16,000 in mortgage interest payments on his home in his S#horpe constituency even though the mortgage
had ended 18 months before.
But to take it even further, the MPs avoided the paying of stamp duties on properties sold (at inflated profit due to taxpayer-funded renovations) by
lying on legal documents, claiming the property as their ‘primary home’.
Claim: The former Tory chief whip claimed £20,000 for renovations on his farmhouse under the second home allowance. However, he avoided paying
thousands in capital gains tax by declaring to Revenue and Customs that it was his main home when selling it for £750,000.
In what is essentially a double dip, these wealthy MPs are using the assets of their wealth to desperately avoid contributing to the very same tax
pool which they are looting to feather their own financial nests.
Surely it can’t get worse than this?
Claim: Claimed at least £180,000 in expenses by designating an empty flat, and previously an allegedly non-existent property as her main
These are the type of claims that British MPs, those charged with the leadership and direction of the nation, are trying to explain away as
But some found themselves lucky enough to have nothing to explain at all…
“Tony Blair's expenses were shredded 'by mistake' when they were the subject of a legal bid to have them published.”
Tony Blair’s catchphrase in leading up to the 1997 general election was “Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime”
. The simple truth
is that these politicians are looting taxpayer money, with the same ‘as long as we don’t get caught’ mentality as those involved in the London
riots. The only difference is that those in the riots at least have the courage to stand up and admit what they’re doing, and not trying to hide
between ‘accounting errors’ and ‘oversights’.
Overwhelmingly, if these were ‘honest accounting errors’ and ‘simple oversights’ why were so many politicians so desperately keen to pay the
money back once the story broke? After all, this looting of taxpayer money was occurring as far back as 2001, yet the story broke 8 years later? The
message – looting, fraud and stealing is OK as long as you don’t get caught. Which is exactly what the looters in the London riots are
More than half of the MPs have argued that all of their claims have been ‘within the rules of the expenses system’. So who is writing these rules
that inherently favour those of the ruling class with the shameless excesses afforded to them using the money of taxpayers? The same money which is
now being withdrawn from desperately needed social services due to ‘austerity measures’?
In no way am I condoning or justifying the animalistic behaviour that has been demonstrated throughout London streets over the past week. It has been
nothing short of disgraceful, and has shown only the appalling lows of human nature and pack mentality. Indeed, far from the uprisings in recent
months for political freedoms, these London riots, and the looting and ransacking which has occurred throughout, are fuelled by nothing more than
opportunism and bare, basic greed.
But it is bordering on civil neglect for those in charge to simply dismiss this as a characteristic and trait inherent amongst ‘disenfranchised
youth’. Those in positions of power have universally denigrated all they have seen, yet they are missing the point entirely.
To end, if I could ask David Cameron only one question, it would be:
“To what extent do you and your parliamentary colleagues accept that the culture of greed amongst those rioting in London, and the notion
that stealing and looting is actively encouraged as long as you don’t get caught is a result of those elected into positions of leadership around
the country displaying exactly those sentiments towards taxpayer money, month after month, year after year?”
If those elected as leaders of the nation can treat the public purse with such contempt and disregard, and display such ‘smash and grab’
tendencies towards taxpayer money, why should those in their constituencies feel any different? Politicians seem to so quickly point the finger at
others in society for social problems. They point at footballers, musicians and movie stars. They point at single-parent families, at lazy youth. They
blame race and religion (because deep down, they can always rely on the perceived failings of multiculturalism for public support). They blame social
media. But at what point do they need to stop and look in the mirror? It seems that, more and more, society allows violent looting of communities, but
only if it’s bankers or people in power, or simply people who wear a suit and tie, who are doing the looting.
On pondering this, I’ll leave you with the following list of just a small sample of the looting that has been endorsed and encouraged by those
elected politicians for years…
Claim: Claimed £66,827 from the second home allowance - the maximum allowed - over three years towards the cost of his London flat, bought in 2001
before he was elected. Claims over the period included £2,100 for a flat screen television, £1,420 for a bathroom, £671 for a fireplace and £730
for a massage chair.
Claim: Taxpayers contributed almost £100,000 to help pay the mortgage on a £1.35m flat owned by the Northern Ireland secretary. The money went on
mortgage interest payments and council tax between 2004 and 2008 for the flat. Married to a member of the Sainsbury family and worth an estimated
£15m, Mr Woodward is the richest member of the cabinet.
Claim: Claimed £2,800 for a settee and £2,000 for a carpet to furnish his second home. Also accused of "flipping" his two houses in London and
Manchester to make a profit. Mr Goggins also allowed a university friend to live rent-free in a home paid for by the taxpayer. Mr Goggins defended his
household purchases by saying he liked to ‘live by decent standards’. "I do not lead an extravagant lifestyle, people should remember that we
have to furnish our first home with our own money.”
Claim: The chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee claimed more than £75,000 to fund a second home in Westminster, even though his family home
is just 12 miles away in Stanmore.
Claim: The MP for Brent North made a profit of almost £200,000 from a flat mortgaged and renovated with the help of taxpayers' cash.
Claim: The former Trade Secretary used the expenses system to claim more than £125,000 for the London flat owned by his partner.
ALAN AND ANN KEEN
Claim: The Labour MPs Alan and Ann Keen, who are married, have claimed £137,679 between them towards a central London flat despite the fact their
family home is less than ten miles away.
Claim: The former cabinet minister claimed £31,000 of taxpayers' money for flood damage to her second home, even though she had a building insurance
policy at the time.
Claim: Dr Gibson claimed for a flat which his daughter and her partner lived in rent-free. The Norwich North MP then sold it to them for less than he
paid and well below market value.
Claim: Claimed £118,000 for expenses at his second home, including stereo equipment, redecoration and a pair of Kenyan carpets.
Claim: Claimed more than £10,000 for the redecoration of his London flat, which was just 11 miles from his main home, before selling it for a
£30,000 profit. After buying a new property, he claimed £10,000 in stamp duty and other expenses incurred in the move and a further £15,000 for a
new bathroom, kitchen, carpets, and appliances.
Claim: Claimed £24,877 in expenses to refurbish his second home in London. Kitchen units, lighting, bathroom items, carpets, tiles leather chairs and
a marble table were all among the goods for which he claimed.
Claim: The Labour backbencher made claims for a bath mat, gardening equipment and more than £7,000 for property repairs at his home in Birmingham,
labeling them as office costs.
Claim: The Staffordshire Moorlands MP claimed more than £35,000 for renovations to her second home, which included £20,000 for windows and £4,000
for pulling down and rebuilding a chimney.
Claim: Mr Cash used parliamentary allowances to pay about £15,000 in rent to his daughter in 2004-5 after nominating her London flat as his second
home. He did this even though he owned a flat closer to Westminster in which his son was staying rent free.
Claim: Conservative MP Bernard Jenkin used £50,000 in expenses to pay his sister-in-law rent for the property he uses as his constituency home.
Claim: Shadow cabinet office minister Francis Maude claimed almost £35,000 in mortgage interest payments on a London flat that he bought, close to a
house he already owned and then rented out.
Claim: The former shadow minister for local government claimed more than £2,000 of furniture for his second home in London but had it delivered to
his parents' home in Wiltshire.
Claim: The South West Norfolk MP claimed over £1,800 in expenses to buy 215 trees and fencing to mark out the boundary of his house. Mr Fraser stated
"I have been conscious whenever claiming that my costs must be wholly, exclusively and necessarily incurred for the purposes of my parliamentary
SIR ALAN BEITH
Claim: Sir Alan, the first MP to declare an interest in succeeding Michael Martin as Commons Speaker, claimed £117,000 in second homes allowances
while his wife, Baroness Maddock, claimed £60,000 from the House of Lords for staying at the same address.