Arise Sir Tricky Dicky Ottaway – Croydon’s dark knight

Arise Sir Tricky Dicky Ottaway.

Croydon South's stayway MP Richard Ottaway

Croydon South’s stayaway MP

If ever someone wanted to discredit the “Honours” system, this is a prime example that shows how debased the whole thing has become.

The Daily Wail, not noted for being a radical rag, described the latest honours list, revealed overnight, as an example of “Cronyism and low-level corruption”.

The Mail accuses Prime Minister David Cameron of “handing gongs to friends, Tory donors and even the woman who runs his supper club”. Cameron’s No10 even managed to dole out a CBE to Karren Brady for “services to entrepreneurship and women in business” – this for a woman who has spent the past 20 years running a couple of football clubs for a pair of millionaire pornographers. “Women in business” indeed.

Her Majesty’s Daily Torygraph, another hard-left publication (not), chose to highlight the apparent contradiction in rewarding MPs who had already been caught with their hands in the parliamentary expenses cookie jar: “Three MPs criticised over expenses given knighthoods”. One of these happens to be a Croydon MP.

The craven Croydon Sadvertiser managed to publish a congratulatory note to “Sir Richard”, without mentioning the somewhat tacky matter of his expenses claims. Bless.

“The knighthood is simply a form of compensation for a career that never achieved significant public office,” was one view aired upon the announcement that Dicky will have to spend another day away from the affairs of his constituents, in best bib and tucker, for the Queen to tap him on the shoulder.

Officially, the knighthood was listed as “The Rt Hon Richard Geoffrey James Ottaway, MP. Member of Parliament for Croydon South. For parliamentary and political service. (London)”

Not graft and self-service then?

And note that he is listed as being from London, rather than Bletchingley, in Surrey, where his £1 million-plus country pile is to be found  – outside his Croydon South constituency.

Inside Croydon has often joked about Tricky Dicky being ennobled as Lord Bletchingley come the end of his parliamentary career in 2015. In a sick joke sort of a way.

For this is the man who before he was elected as MP for Croydon South in 1992 solemnly told the final selection meeting of the local Conservative party that, should he be selected, he would move home to the constituency. This he has never done, instead choosing to milk the MPs’ expenses system for all it was worth. Interestingly, Ottaway has started to try to deny that he ever gave any undertaking, which others who were at the same meeting clearly remember.

Maybe Dicky’s memory is letting him down in his pre-retirement dotage?

Ahoy there: Richard Ottaway sails away from Croydon's troubles in August 2011

Crisis? What crisis? MP Richard Ottaway’s response to the 2011 riots in Croydon was to sail away from the troubles

Perhaps Dicky has also forgotten how, at the time of Croydon’s greatest crisis since the Second World War, the riots in August 2011, he decided to go off on a sailing holiday for Cowes Week. “For parliamentary and political service”? Seriously?

Perhaps Ottaway has also forgotten how, apparently throughout his parliamentary career, he has claimed thousands of pounds in expenses to pay his own constituency party for use of its offices. It appears to be standard practice among professional politicians of all hues to use public cash to subsidise their local parties.

Latest figures show that Ottaway has been paying Croydon Conservatives £6,000 a year of public money, claiming the “amount has been openly declared” to the Commons expenses watchdog. “I use the office for surgeries and constituency related meetings, as did my predecessor,” Ottaway said.

But then, we do get the politicians that we (or usually a minority of us) vote for. Despite being named in the Telegraph’s MPs expenses scandal in 2009, after escaping with a slap on the wrist from his constituency party, Ottaway was duly re-elected to parliament in May 2010 – with an increased majority.

It’s not just Dicky who has become forgetful, but the electorate, too.

So here’s a reminder of some of the highlights of how Sir Tricky Dicky Ottaway got away with living the high life at public expense, when he was supposed to be representing the people of Croydon South. The figures here are only for the period 2004 to 2008. As Croydon South’s MP, Ottaway had had his snout in the Westminster trough from 1992.

House of Commons records showed that Ottaway spent £8,825.75 of public money on landscaping the gardens at his four-bedroom Bletchingley house between April 2004 and March 2008.

He also claimed for half of the cost of a £5,395 bed bought from Harrods.

This was on top of expenses claims of more than £1,000 on shower repairs, £206.80 repairing a television aerial and a £49.95 toaster using public cash. As recently as 2010, Ottaway, by then Croydon South’s MP of 18 years, put in a claim for £44for a guide to the House of Commons.

Between March 2004 and April 2008, Ottaway also claimed for:

• Food: £10,548.66
• Cleaning: £5,730.33
• Repair a tractor tyre: £50
• Speakers for a sound system: £249
• Modifications to scarifier (used to aerate soil in lawns) £48.50
• Lightbulbs: £59.99

Ottaway recently suggested – tamely unchallenged by his radio interviewer to provide any substantiation – that being an MP was costing him £10,000 a year out of his own pocket.

Now we know that Ottaway is trousering the MP’s current salary of £66,396 – and soon to benefit from an inflation-busting 11 per cent increase. Plus – even after the 2010 reforms – generous expenses.

Maybe he has forgotten that?

Richard Ottaway: paying close attention to his expenses claims

Croydon South MP Richard Ottaway: paying close attention to his expenses claims

Ottaway also seems to have forgotten that until the embarrassing revelations in 2009, he also made sure that Nikki, his wife, was on the public pay-roll, employed as one of his parliamentary assistants. That must have helped with the mortgage payments. If he had had to pay his mortgage.

Because it appears to have slipped Tricky Dicky’s mind that, until his expenses were exposed in 2009, he thought nothing of claiming tens of thousands of pounds towards the cost of a second home.

According to sources in his own parliamentary office, Ottaway had a “large property portfolio”, which may include the central London flat he used as an MP’s second home, and which 20 years later has appreciated in value significantly. And all tax-free, too.

In 2008 alone, Ottaway claimed £21,481 as his “Additional Costs Allowance”.  This was, according to the Department of Finance and Administration of the House of Commons “to reimburse Members for costs incurred when staying overnight away from their main home whilst performing parliamentary duties”. 

Ottaway had been claiming a similar amount every year for seven years, giving a total in the region of £140,000 claimed between 2001 and 2009.  

Croydon to Westminster is 12 miles, a 30-minute train ride at most, endured by thousands of Ottaway’s constituents every working day of the week, year-in, year-out. Mind you, the public paying £21,000 a year for Ottaway to have a tax-free second home as his London “crash pad” did not stop him also claiming a further £2,651 in 2008… for travel expenses.

Of 10 parliamentary votes about MPs’ expenses held between 2007 and 2009, Ottaway was absent or abstained on seven of them. Of the remaining three votes, he voted twice against greater transparency.

So arise Sir Tricky Dicky Ottaway. A knight of the realm. And a dark day for Britain.


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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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14 Responses to Arise Sir Tricky Dicky Ottaway – Croydon’s dark knight

  1. Quite ridiculous.

    Constituents can’t get a meeting with him, in Croydon South or at the Houses of Parliament. Years ago, a friend and I were offered a meeting, but only late on a Friday afternoon, on only one date that month, when both of us had children to collect and ferry to activities. Hardly accommodating of constituents’ needs.

    When I was granted his ear it was after a protracted wait, and then for just a fleeting moment, standing, in Central Lobby. My then young teen daughters were totally unimpressed with his lack of interest and lack of knowledge of issues for Croydon. I could not disagree with this.

    I’ve given up writing as it is a total waste of money. Concerns are not answered. He just bats letters back and forth, even sharing with me information that I originally stated in my initial correspondence.

    Is this just an issue with Conservative MPs though? Not at all. In fact several library campaigners, including my daughters, met, at the invitation of Justin Tomlinson MP, for an extended meeting on the terraces at the Houses of Parliament last year to share concerns, ideas and hopes on the situation locally and nationally for libraries.

    Justin Tomlinson MP not only recognised me but recalled my daughters and our comments when library campaigners met with him and Helen Goodman MP late this year. He is also pushing for a meeting with Ed Vaizey.

    And where is Mr Ottaway?

    Disengaged and disinterested as far as I can see.

    Available though, for ample photo opps and promotion in Sanderstead Residents’ Association’s supposedly independent publication ‘Sanderstead News’, edited by none other than Mayor of Croydon, Cllr Yvette Hopley, and a notable feature in December’s St Mary’s Parish newsletter, a paper edited by none other than Cllr Lynne Hale, his parliamentary assistant.

    When someone said that Croydon South would vote in a monkey on a stick we laughed but, given the cost of the current MP and the lack of representation for Croydon South by said MP the monkey on a stick gets my vote!

  2. Sir Richard Ottaway is an excellent MP. Though I don’t live in his constituency he has always been very helpful. Though we may not like the fact that he has claimed expenses for his second home, Sir Richard has not done anything illegal. He has claimed expenses as per rules set by parliament..

    • Yes Patrick. Of course, Patrick.

      Neither Steve Reed (new rules) nor Malcolm Wicks, nor Pelling or even Gary Barlow ever indulged themselves at public expense in the manner that Ottaway has done.

      But what, exactly, has he ever done to deserve any “honour”, beside provide Tory lobby fodder for 20 years?

      • Sir Richard is an excellent constituency MP and has helped many of his constituents for the last twenty years. One could argue that helping constituents is exactly what MPs are supposed to do. There are MPs both Tory and Labour who don’t help constituents.

        As chairman (or chairperson if Harperson reads insideCroydon) of foreign affairs select committee Sir Richard did a fantastic job.

  3. derekthrower says:

    Has been an appallingly remote Local MP. Focused on International affairs during his tenure and no doubt has a huge international contact base to call upon to generate his commercial interests during the political retirement. No doubt will become a Life Peer in a couple of parliamentary terms times for his services to the nation, but certainly not to his constituents. ( unless you lurk behind a long drive with many CCTV devices at the gates)

  4. mraemiller says:

    “Under changes brought in in 2012 by David Cameron, the Prime Minister, MPs are now regularly given knighthoods at the New Year and Queen’s birthday honours every June. MPs are considered by an eight strong committee, chaired by Tory grandee Sir Michael Spicer and comprising the parties’ chief whips and other lay members.” – Telegraph

    Buggins turn for a gong?

    Says something that Richard Ottaway is the most honest MP they could find?
    What were the others like?

    “Has been an appallingly remote Local MP”

    He talks to me sometimes – we have a mutual interest in moaning about Chilcot…
    Still dunno why he bothers except an obvious self interest in getting people in the Labour party to attack people in the Labour party…?
    I’m not a constituent.
    Maybe you too should move to Croydon Central and you’ll get more attention.
    He reminds me a bit of Francis Urquhart
    So I avoid roof gardens now

    To be fair I think he has been quite useful on the Home Affairs Committee… I think …well because as an ex-serviceman he’s got more of a clue what awkward questions to ask of the military and their “intelligence”. Mind you the competition for perspicacious inquirers on this committee is not exactly high calibre if you ask me but…

    Actually I quite like the fact he doesn’t spend absolutely all day on twitter feigning interest in things like Gavin Boreall. After all what’s the point in having a massive majority if you can’t ignore people? If your mind is closed it is surely giving a false impression to pretend it is open. Maybe it’s better sometimes not to go through the motions of pointless placation. And to be honest if I was a Tory MP I’d hide from people like Elizabeth.

    Why do you want to meet him in the flesh anyway? I can think of little worse than meeting a politican in the flesh. If they wont put their thoughts in permanent form they are just hot air ….is my view. The only use for politicians in corporeal form is as something to slam one’s front door in the face of….

    • It’s the foreign affairs committee.

      And he was never a “serviceman”. He was an occifer in Her Maj’s Royal Navy. So he’s never going to be one to rock the boat.

  5. derekthrower says:

    Funny how all his supporters live outside his constituency.

  6. On a topical subject of flooding I found Richard to be very helpful and committed when some years ago we were trying to resolve flooding problems, eventually found to be exacerbated by Thames Water, in Caterham Drive.

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