17 Mar 2010

“Hurt” MPs prepare to say farewell to the Commons

Few apologies, many regrets. That was the impression I was left with after interviewing retiring MPs for tonight’s Channel 4 News.

We hear, for the first time since they were trapped in the expenses saga, from Derek Conway and Kitty Ussher. Nicholas Winterton (one half of what the newspapers dubbed “Mr and Mrs Expenses”) shares his thoughts as he leaves. As do Geoff Hoon, Ann Widdecombe and Tony Wright.

You get an overwhelming sense of hurt from the interviews. A sense of a Commons that is still in shock. 

For all retiring MPs, whenever they were first elected, arriving at the House of Commons boosted their status. As they leave they’re not sure whether to tell taxi drivers what they do for a living.

Ann Widdecombe opened her post just a few days ago to discover a two word correspondence – “oink, oink.” 

As Geoff Hoon says, MPs give up chunks of family life and much else because they are highly motivated and public approval is a component of that. Now they feel “de-motivated.”

Derek Conway said those MPs that remain are no better than “walking wounded.”

As both Derek Conway and Nicholas Winterton say, what the public called the “expenses saga” was to them an “allowances saga.” They were supposed to claim to the hilt or near it to make up for salary rises foregone. That was the advice from the Fees Office and from senior colleagues. 

Tony Wright tells of being eye-balled by a colleague – a well known figure in the Commons – who didn’t like him blowing the whistle on MPs playing the mileage expenses claims to their advantage. 

Derek Conway tells us he paid a heavy price as he was a highly favoured candidate for the Speakership before disaster struck.

Kitty Ussher says that although she was a Treasury Minister, flipping her second home to avoid council tax was no different from taking up an ISA. 

On at 7pm tonight – and you can see it after that on Channel 4+1, or the Channel 4 News website.

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