Etherington may refuse to pay: curse of the safe seat

With the prospect of MPs refusing to pay back the money requested by Sir Thomas Legg’s enquiry, Left Foot Forward is reminded of the pioneering work of Mark Thompson in drawing a clear correlation between MPs expenses and safe seats.

Back in May, Mark Thompson, who runs the Mark Reckons blog and contributes to Left Foot Forward, showed that, “the safer the seat, the more likely the MP is to be implicated.” His graph (reproduced right) showed that 80 MPs in the safest 25 per cent of seats were implicated in the expenses scandal compared to just 46 in the least safe seats.

Today, Bill Etherington, the MP for Sunderland North, told the Sunderland Echo:

“If he [Legg] has decided I shouldn’t have claimed something which I feel was justifiable under the rules at the time, then I won’t pay it.”

Etherington, who is stepping down at the next election, claimed £22,922 in additional allowance costs including £2,490 for roller blinds, £150.99 on three sets of stepladders in three months, £74.44 for a razor, and a £119 radio. Etherington has a majority of 9,995. The Electoral Commission determined that it was the 286th most marginal of Labour’s seat, putting it safely inside the top 25 per cent of Labour’s safest seats. Boundary changes will reduce the majority to around 9,000.

Writing today for Progress, John Mann MP says:

“Many MPs continue to view themselves as badly done by, under valued and under paid. Everyone is to blame but ourselves for the expenses scandal. I beg to differ. Parliament set the rules, or rather the lack of rules, and we must dig ourselves out of this mess.”

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by becoming a Left Foot Forward Supporter today.