Purley and Coulsdon have been snubbed. And so has Bletchingley.
“Sir” Richard Ottaway, for 23 years the disinterested MP for Croydon South, has been left out of the latest batch of peerages doled out by Tory Prime Minister David Cameron and announced today.
For such an assiduous expenses claimer as Tricky Dicky, missing out on the £300 daily attendance allowance for the House of Lords, plus exes, must be a real blow.
How will he be able to afford to keep the extensive grounds of his Bletchingley country pile in the Surrey stockbroker belt in the ship-shape fashion to which he became accustomed during his years as an MP?
And how is it that Ottaway was overlooked?
Well, the former naval officer was never really outstanding, either physically, nor as a hard-working constituency MP. So maybe Prime Minister David Cameron just forgot about him. Most of Ottaway’s former constituents in Purley and Coulsdon already have. And he only retired from the Commons in May.
Throughout his time as one of our borough’s MPs, Ottaway never lived in Croydon. Instead, he used the Commons’ allowances system to his financial benefit to help buy his large house in Bletchingley and a flat in central London.
But he surely can’t have missed out on a peerage just because of his reputation for egregious raking in of public cash – such as the £59.99 he claimed for light bulbs and £48 for modifying a scarifier for his garden. He tried to claim £2,025, half the price of a bed bought from Harrod’s, but he was forced to repay that when he got caught out.
But making outrageous expenses claims has not held back another former Conservative MP from being included in the 2015 dissolution honours.
Dougie Hogg – that’s Quentin’s lad – has been handed a peerage today, even though he’s already got a hereditary title. And he’s the bloke who made Ottaway look like an beginner as he claimed relentlessly from public funds for the maintenance of his country estate, including costs ranging from hiring a mole catcher (£671.17) to having his moat dredged (£2,115). Yes, the poor dear, he has a moat.
Hogg was nominated for a peerage in 2011 but was blocked because of his shameless expenses claiming. So what has changed? Does Cameron think we will have forgotten?
The public – us poor saps who for decades have been subsidising these greedy self-servers – may get to find out. Sir Alistair Graham, the former chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, has called for an explanation for the U-turn over Hogg’s suitability for being allowed to stiff his snout in the Lords’ trough.
“I think the public will be puzzled as to what has happened since 2011. Clearly his difficulties with parliamentary expenses caused them to think he wasn’t an appropriate person to enter the House of Lords then, so why have they changed their mind?
“We need increased transparency about why certain people were acceptable when they weren’t a few years ago.”
And if those who were blocked by the Appointments Commission are named publicly, Sir Alistair said, “That would act as a deterrent to allowing their names to go forward in the first place and help reduce the size of the Lords.”
It would also enable us to find out whether Tricky Dicky Ottaway was dumped by his Tory mates, or just forgotten.
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