I’m deeply grateful to the Manchester Evening News and its reporter Deborah Linton for exposing Manchester MP John Leech’s shameless attempts to exploit the taxpayer by…

(brace yourselves for the shock)…

… offering coffee to staff working at his constituency office and members of the public visiting him.

With unbelievable extravagance, Mr Leech has splashed out on two £34.99 coffee makers from Aldi for his Didsbury office. As if that weren’t shameless enough, he also bought coffee beans to actually put into the actual coffee makers!

Then to top it all, he allows his staff and constituents to consume the coffee, even letting them add milk — milk which is, in a very real sense, squeezed from the udders of the hard-working, decent-minded silent majority in this country.

Yes, you read that right: the scoundrel is actually letting people — there’s no other way of putting this — DRINK OUR TAXES. The total bill that you and I are having to foot for such profligacy is £176.55.

So outrageous is this behaviour, it’s even prompted the reticent Taxpayers’ Alliance to speak out, rightly noting “MPs’ expenses are to cover the costs of their role not to keep them supplied with caffeine all year round.” Thank goodness they’re sticking up for what’s right and what matters to the British people.

I am scandalised.

I demand immediately that John Leech refer himself to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner.

And I further demand that Nick Clegg launch at least two independent public inquiries: one into the management of the coffee-making process in Didsbury; and a wider over-arching inquiry into the culture of beverages that seems to have percolated into his Didbsury office.

I for one won’t rest until we have got to the bottom of these dregs.

And I am at a total loss to understand the reaction of the readers of the Manchester Evening News, who — instead of the OUTRAGE we all must feel when confronted by MPs living the high life — have instead chosen to stick up for Mr Leech. Comments such as:

Is this really what the MEN classes as “news” these days? What a sorry state of affairs.

I would hardly call this unreasonable, 2 coffee machines from Aldi, seems reasonable to me!


For goodness sake MEN.

He’s gone and got a couple of cheap coffee machines and some coffee to go in them, to keep his staff and visitors happy. And his employers (us) have paid for it. Not in the least bit unreasonable. Which option would you have preferred – paying for it out of his own pocket or no drinks for staff and visitors?

I would suggest that very few people do the former, and if the latter came to pass the MEN would be the first writing a story about parched staff and visitors denied fluids by a cruel MP.

Would this story have anything to do with the fact that Mr Leech is a Lib Dem MP in a Lib Dem/Lab marginal and the MEN is owned by Trinity Mirror, the most unthinkingly pro-Labour media group in the UK?

Such comments only go to show how out of touch the public is with popular opinion. Thank goodness for journalists!

* Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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  • Paul Walter Paul Walter 9th Nov '12 - 4:00pm

    LOL of the week award!

  • Sadly, and this was clear from the reaction to the original expenses scandal ( see this example: http://www.leylandguardian.co.uk/news/local/mp-s-biscuit-claim-among-expenses-1-2997388 ), a lot of people will think that as he is paid a good salary he should pay for the coffee maker and beans out of his own pocket. That’s despite most offices offering their staff and visitors free tea and coffee paid for out of the company’s budget, and quite frankly those that don’t should.

  • Simon Beard 9th Nov '12 - 4:49pm

    I think that the MEN is only scratching the surface here. After all, not only is Mr LEECH stealing coffee out of the hands of hard working families, he is also making them pick up the tab for his office! Surely if he wanted staff and visitors to enjoy the comforts of protection from the elements he could have had the decency to provide this at his own expense. The tax payer’s alliance at asleep at their desks again, why else are they not protesting ‘MPs’ expenses are to cover the costs of their role not to keep them warm and dry all year round’.

  • Love this response – `I agree Holly Gaggia are very good machines but out of my price range unfortunately … I am thinking of visiting Mr Leech’s office to see how good these aldi machines are at making a nice coffe as they are, like all Aldi products, very reasonably priced … but i wonder, as a native of Collyhurst, would i be welcomed or indeed entitled to a free cup of coffee?`

  • William Jones 9th Nov '12 - 6:07pm

    Typical Manchester Evening News with their biased reporting trying to drag John Leech into the expenses tax pit that many Labour MPs are in. They would be well advised to look into some of the expenses of the Manchester Labour MPs. The report is more comedy value than of substance.

  • ..no better than a common shoplifter imo.. I think you will find it is the principle, something that you are now devoide of..

  • William Jones 9th Nov '12 - 7:42pm

    Are andyj and Simon Beard comments serious?

  • I’m sure there’s a reason why Trinity Mirror’s readership numbers are falling. I can’t think of one just now, but that’s because I’m busy drinking coffee.

  • Richard Dean 9th Nov '12 - 8:57pm

    Yes, it’s trivial, but it can be taken to indicate that Leech does not know the rules, which is a much more serious thing – suggesting then possibility of bigger scandals lurking. Personally i don’t know the rules either, but I don’t have to. If the coffee maker and supplies are not allowed, then they are not allowed, full stop. As a recent bicyclist has discovered, a rule maker is not above the law, no matter how small the offense.

  • but you must see the problem was that he splashed out on coffee and not that English staple – tea … :))

  • They don’t like it up em

  • In many countries in the Middle East before doing business the host will first sit you down for a coffee . It is considered bad manners, a) neither to offer or to accept this token of hospitality and b) to begin to discuss business before consuming. This practice results in business being conducted in a relaxed orderly manner. Are they more civilised than we ?

  • An abuse of MP’s expenses only takes place if the system does not allow it. In this case it was not an abuse because MP’s are allowed toclaim for coffee makers if they so wish. You may wonder why MP’s should be allowed to claim for such things, but that’s another matter.

  • Helen Dudden 11th Nov '12 - 10:26am

    It may be allowed, but was it the most sensible thing to do. We are all finding life very difficult and MPs are paid well, could if not have come from some other source?

  • I provide tea, coffee, milk sugar etc for my employees and visitors. I haven’t checked with the accounts team but I assume it is taken into account for tax purposes like most business expenses. Even if it weren’t or the other shareholders objected I would argue for it to be continued in terms of moral and plain good manners. I can’t see a difference really, we’re all shareholders in UK PLC but let’s make sensible savings not silly ones. As for taking it out of his own pay, that’s just petty…

    It would be a sad day if a Constituent with real problems visited their MP and could not be offered such a basic courtesy. Likewise giving staff tea and coffee doesn’t make you Santa Claus and is not an exception, it should be the norm and not even a point for discussion.

  • Helen Dudden 12th Nov '12 - 3:09pm

    Yes, but did he need a coffee machine, and real coffee, Sorry don’t agree, we are all in this together. How long is the meeting with an MP? If I remember correctly about 20 minutes?

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