Saturday, 7 June 2008

Caroline Spelman - A fuss about nothing?

You can tell that it's been a quiet news week when the media go into a frenzy over a Tory MPs expenses from ten years ago. Caroline Spelman has been accused of paying her nanny, Tina Haynes, from her expenses for the period 1997-98. Sounds bad doesn't it? But, how does this sound: Caroline Spelman had a live in nanny at the time who was paid to carryout secretarial work for Caroline while the kids were at school. The nanny was paid six hours a day five days a week.

There was a question over how much secretarial work Tina actually did for her publicly funded wages. This came about after Tina told BBC's Newsnight that she only posted letters and "took the odd phone call" and passed on messages "once or twice a week". I think it is entirely possible that Tina modestly played down her roll. After all, Caroline was using her home as her constituency office at the time, and it is highly unlikely that the office received only one or two phone calls a week.

To clear the matter up, Tina issued a statement today:
"During the period of 1997 to 1998, I had two roles, one helping Mrs Spelman with childcare and another providing secretarial help to her as a MP. "My roles and responsibilities were general administration which entailed tasks such as posting of letters, answering phone calls at the home address, (and) faxing or posting documents to Mrs Spelman whilst she was in London. "This was performed during the hours that her children were at school. On Fridays any help with directions to constituency events was given."
Caroline has referred the matter to the parliamentary standards commissioner. I have a feeling that Caroline did not break the rules, but did put herself in a position where her actions could be questioned - innocent or not. I also feel that this has been a storm in a very old teacup

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This pedants' hunt for the errant politician, driven by the media's love of expose, is destroying what little faith in our political class remains and, in doing so, poisoning the political realm. The disjuncture that now exists between the public perception of politicians as peculators, crooks, Soviet apparatchiks almost, and the banal reality of the cross-section of men and women in Parliament undermines very seriously the smooth functioning of the political system.

Undiscriminating cynicism and mistrust will be the result, and that can only hurt our political culture and do real harm to any ideology which relies on a positive conception of the state.

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