Would Jubilee’ve it? MP Ottaway throws a party for party funds

Forget all the other open days, picnics and windmills this Jubilee weekend. The real hot ticket for Croydon society is the local Tory party’s summer garden party. And the best thing about it? It is not even being held in Croydon.

Richard Ottaway MP: hosting a party at his house, outside Croydon, to raise money for the local Conservatives

Thanks to the kind hospitality of Nicky and Richard Ottaway, Croydon’s Conservatives can escape their own borough and party to their hearts’ content at the Croydon South MP’s palatial £1 million-plus home on Snatts Hill, Bletchingley.

And why shouldn’t they? After all, much of the house and its gardens were paid for by the British public, when “Tricky Dicky” Ottaway was playing the MPs’ expenses system for all it was worth. To the tune of £85,000, it has been reported.

Ottaway entered parliament in 1992, just as house prices were in a slump after the housing market had suffered a blow under the Tory Chancellor Norman Lamont and his Treasury sidekick, a gauche Old Etonian by the name of David “Dave” Cameron.

With MPs from across the United Kingdom travelling to Westminster and needing somewhere to live during the week, the parliamentary system at that time provided very generous allowances for “second homes”. With Croydon South being just a half-hour train ride from Victoria and the House of Commons nearby, most reasonable people might think that Ottaway could live in his constituency and commute to work each day, just like thousands of others from Croydon. Not our Dicky, though.

At his parliamentary candidate selection meeting, the former Royal Navy officer and qualified solicitor told Croydon Conservatives that he would do the honourable and proper thing and live in his constituency. But once elected, Ottaway instead chose to live in verdant Bletchingley rather than going through the indignity of finding a home alongside his Croydon South riffraff constituents.

And with all those juicy MPs’ allowances available to him, he also designated the Bletchingley house as his “second home” within his personal property portfolio that included two central London apartments and a bijou place en France.

Bletchingley: definitely not in Croydon

Of course, the MPs’ expenses scandal three years ago has put an end to many of the generous allowances and loopholes which the likes of Ottaway unwittingly used to their financial advantage.

At the time Ottaway was said by the local party’s agent to have apologised “for his part in allowing an indefensible system of allowances to develop. He shares the local party’s view that MPs should act honestly and decently. We expect MPs to live by the same rules and standards as those they wish to represent. No MP is above the law”. Losing that sort of access to public money must have been a real fag for Dicky.

So this weekend, Richard and the lovely Nicky – who for a long time was on his publicly funded House of Commons payroll as a parliamentary assistant – will be throwing open the doors of their country “second” home for members of the Croydon Conservatives, provided that they buy a very reasonably priced ticket, of course. All proceeds to the local party’s coffers, naturally.

As the chilled Chablis and Pimm’s flows, expect the cream of Croydon society to be there, plus Mike Fisher, the leader of Croydon Council, Dudley and Margaret Mead (some suggest that the hit 1970s TV series Terry and June was based on Croydon’s leading husband and wife double act), and others, all eager to glimpse how the other half lives.

Once inside the impressive gates of chez Ottaway on Rabies Heath Road, the party goers will be able to stroll the extensive lawns that were manicured immaculately all at public expense (on around 50 occasions, as it happens), and they can view the hog shed that was fixed with some cash generously paid from the public purse. As the evening closes in, they might be illuminated by one of the light bulbs that Dicky claimed 60 quid for.

It needs to be stated that Ottaway did manage to pay back £50 he had claimed – in error, clearly – for repairing the wheel of a tractor that is used to maintain the estate, which enjoys fabulous views over the North Downs.

A larger sum that Ottaway paid back was £4,050 that he had claimed for half the price of a special bed that just had to be bought from Harrod’s (apparently, Reeve’s furniture store in Croydon was out of stock at the time). Claiming for a whole bed was a bit toppy in the context of the MP’s diminutive stature.

This year’s Croydon Tories’ party is to be held ostensibly to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. One presumes that the bunting will be appropriately discrete in the context of the select neighbourhood.

The annual parties at the exquisite and exclusive location are part of the duty that the Ottaways must perform – perhaps through gritted teeth – to keep local Tory party members sweet and to raise money for the Croydon party’s coffers. They might even have to admit those members who were so naive as to suggest that Ottaway should stand down after he was exposed in the expenses furore.

The ravages of time and general disillusionment with all political parties have had their impact on Croydon Conservatives’ budgets, as membership numbers fall and more mundane party events have to be cancelled through lack of interest. The Conservatives have secured economies of scale by merging their three Croydon party associations under the well-organised Tory agent Ian Parker, but this weekend remains an important fund-raising occasion in the annual calendar.

So if raffle tickets and auctions of House of Commons whisky bottles signed by David Cameron fail to raise the target amounts, here’s some ideas for ways to boost the party income at the party:

  • how about offering a £10 ticket for entry to the hog shed?
  • £25 ticket for a ride on the repaired tractor
  • £50 for a picture for that half of that £9,100 Harrod’s bed
  • £100 for a picture of the whole bed
  • £250 for a picture of Ottaway on the said bed
  • and £1,000 of the MP on the bed in full naval dress uniform.
  • If you have an event, concert, play or project locally that you think we could help to promote to our 1,000-plus daily readership and nearly 2,000 Twitter followers, then email us with details at inside.croydon@btinternet.com

About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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5 Responses to Would Jubilee’ve it? MP Ottaway throws a party for party funds

  1. ratnaraja says:

    Richard is an excellent MP who has helped his constituents. He has not done anything illegal in claiming expenses or for a second home. He is perfectly entitled to claim for a second home.

    As a good MP Richard has helped many of my Tamil friends who are residents of South Croydon with local matters.

    Perhaps insidecroydon should write about important issues like the safety issues in Croydon than trying to pick on a good MP.

    I hope Richard continues to serve the people of Croydon.

  2. ratnaraja says:

    I can get a ticket if I want to. Just report important stories like why is Croydon not safe and why are offices empty and more offices being built.

    Also why can’t our MPs lobby to bring Whitehall jobs to Croydon?

    Readers don’t want to know if man and man can marry or Richard having a party.

  3. Disturbing news reaches Inside Croydon Towers that some members of the Croydon Conservative Association have failed to receive notification, or an invite, to this afternoon’s Jubilee Jamboree at Dicky’s gaffe.

    A Mrs A Piles, of Selsdon, has noted that her only information about today’s much-awaited social event for the borough’s blue-rinsed set was from reading Inside Croydon. Bless.

    Why would the Croydon Conservatives stage such a major event and not invite one of its members? Answers, on postcards only, please, to the Federation Headquarters, 36 Brighton Road, Purley, CR8 2LG

  4. Anne Giles says:

    What a hoot! I am now on their mailing list and – yes – I did attend. Richard and his lovely wife gave me a big hug. Dudley Mead and his wife were not there – nor was Mike Fisher. The Claire-Hilleys were there, though. Thanks tons for the notification! : -)

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