Arise Sir Tricky Dicky Ottaway.
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?
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 £44 … for 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?
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.
Coming to Croydon
- STDLCC Screening: Wolf Children, Jan 6
- STDLCC Screening: Museum Hours, Jan 13
- “Croydon Communities Consortium” meeting, Jan 14
- Norwood Society talk, Upper Norwood Library, Jan 16
- STDLCC Screening: The East, Jan 20
- STDLCC Screening: Winter Nomads, Jan 27
- Steve Knightly at Stanley Halls: Feb 5
- Purley Swimathon: Feb 8 and 13
- Norwood Society talk, Upper Norwood Library, Feb 20
- Norwood Society talk, Upper Norwood Library, Mar 20
- Inside Croydon: Croydon’s only independent news source, based in the heart of the borough – 262,183 page views (Jan-Jun 2013)
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- New Year Honours 2014: Three MPs criticised over expenses given knighthoods (telegraph.co.uk)
- The ‘cronies’ honours list: Controversy over knighthood for PR man who holidayed with Cameron and awards to Tory and LibDem donors (dailymail.co.uk)
- New Year honours: spin doctor and party donors recognised (theguardian.com)