Opinion: the worst outcome of MPs’ expenses, a victory for the far right?

PoliticsHome recently carried some rather shocking numbers from a poll that it conducted between the 14-15 of May saying that over a quarter of British voters have changed their voting intentions as a result of the MPs’ expenses scandal. The main beneficiary it seems is UKIP, with 28% of those changing loyalty to the anti-European Union party. The second biggest beneficiary is the BNP with 16%.

Leaving aside for a moment the thoroughly disagreeable politics of these parties, any gain by UKIP or the BNP in the European elections on the basis of anger over expenses would be a tragic irony considering the two parties’ histories with fraud and dodgy expenses.

The electorate should not be allowed to forget that, out of the 12 MEPs elected on the UKIP ticket in 2004, two have been indicted with fraud. UKIP was forced to throw both out of the party as a result of the allegations being made public.

Ashley Mote, elected a UKIP MEP for South East England was convicted of eight counts of benefit fraud after it was discovered that he claimed £73,000 in benefits between 1996 and 2002 whilst failing to notify the benefits agency that he had begun earning money through various other sources.

Only a month ago, Tom Wise, MEP for the East of England, was charged with having funneled £39,000 of expenses meant to pay his researcher into his personal bank account. Now an independent, the charges relate to a time when Mr Wise was a UKIP MEP.

UKIP may claim that it acted properly in expelling these two MEPs as soon as the allegations were discovered – however, in the case of Tom Wise, this was only after an internal investigation by UKIP had attempted to cover up the evidence of fraud. As for Ashley Mote, his case was pending when he was selected as a Euro candidate.

Other UKIP MEPs are also no strangers to riding the gravy train; unfortunately that train seems not to stop in Brussels. UKIP MEPs Travor Colman and John Whittaker were 765th and 764th respectively out of 777 MEPs in their percentage of attendance at plenary sessions of the European Parliament over this parliamentary session. Nigel Farage, the party leader, came in a more respectable 640th (statistics from www.votewatch.eu).

As so eloquently expressed by UKIP’s founder Alan Sked in a letter to the Daily Telegraph in 2004,

Given that there is little reason to occupy seats and then vote No to everything, one could easily conclude that UKIP candidates are in effect standing for the money – salaries, pensions and expenses.”

The BNP is no better. A report by Searchlight to Parliament in 2007 revealed a long history of financial irregularity within the Party’s accounts.

BNP Councilor James Lloyd was removed from Sandwell council for not attending a council meeting in six months despite having claimed the full allowance for doing so. Other BNP Councilors in Barking claimed their full councillor’s allowance for attending council meetings of £9,810 per year, despite only attending only six meetings.

It seems to me at least, that the only reason why UKIP and the BNP have not been some of the worst offenders in the MPs’ expenses scandal is that they have no MPs.

* George Turner is a Liberal Democrat member, now living in Italy.

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  • David Heigham 20th May '09 - 3:15pm

    Timely. I was wondering how to say this.

    Now is the time to hammer thes points home on the doorstep wherever UKIP and the BNP are standing.

  • David Heigham 20th May '09 - 3:15pm

    Timely. I was wondering how to say this.

    Now is the time to hammer these points home on the doorstep wherever UKIP and the BNP are standing.

  • Are UKIP far-right then?

  • It seems very wrong that someone who is caught shoplifting and claims that it was an oversight, or absent-minded, or ‘a mistake’ and offers to give it back still ends up with a criminal record whereas if you do the same as an MP caught fiddling your taxes, expenses and so on, you are supposed to think them a hero.

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