Friday, February 20, 2009

My limited sympathy for Jacqui Smith

The Home Secretary has rightly faced a barrage of criticism for her decision to claim over 100,000 pounds for her large 'second home' in her constituency whilst contending that her sister's spare room is her main residence (the above is from the Guardian, so it must be bad). I have a tiny drop of sympathy for her, but not much. I also have a second home: My partner works in Portsmouth, and we have a flat together there. Meanwhile, I rent a small place in London. If you asked me which is my main residence, I would say London, which is where I work, study, and where I am a Councillor. I spend most of my time there, only going to Portsmouth for a few days at a time. But if you looked at my poky little room here and compared it with the comfortable sea-side flat, you might think it's the other way around. So appearances can be deceptive. The difference of course, is that I am not claiming public money for my second home (or my first for that matter). It's a personal decision because of our respective working commitments. The argument for MPs receiving help with the added cost is that they have to have a constituency home and a London pad. Fine, but the rules should be consistent. Instead of asking MPs to make a subjective judgement- which is open to abuse- the rules should fix a sum as the maximum contribution towards a London home, and if Ms Smith wants to continue living with her sister, she would save the taxpayer money.

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