Another Sunday brings another allegation about MPs' corruption. This invokes two extreme reactions, both of which, I think, are wrong. One is “they’ve all got their snouts in the trough.” This runs into a simple factual problem - that only a minority stand accused of this. As Paul says, for all the abuse levelled at him, no-one accuses Gordon Brown of being on the take.
Maybe not. But he may be as guilty as Geoff Hoon of using the Commons Expenses rules for his own benefit. Last year Gordon Brown claimed £16,000 for the second home allowance, to finance his home in Fife.
Up until 2006 the Browns had lived in a Westminster flat, owned by Brown in Great Peter Street (which he bought in 1992 from Robert Maxwell), which he claimed second home allowance for - their main home being in Brown's Fife constituency.
When they moved into Downing Street, I am told that Brown transferred ownership of the flat to his wife. I have been unable to find out whether they still own the flat, whether it has been rented out or whether it has been sold. If it has been sold, surely the Fife house counts as their main home, as it is the only one they own. If they still own and rent out the London flat, aren't they in the same position as Geoff Hoon?
Of course, by claiming for his Fife home, in theory Brown is, in theory, doing nothing different to Tony Blair, who claimed for his house in Sedgefield. But there is a key difference. The Blairs never really lived there full time - it was always clear that it was a second home. Brown's Fife house is his home. It's where his belongings are stored. It's his retreat of choice.
It's the system which is wrong. What kind of system just allows MPs to redesignate a property as a "main" home or "second" home almost on a whim, as Brown did in 2006?
Of course, he could follow David Cameron's lead and announce he will no longer claim a second home allowance as he has a 'grace & favour' residence.