22 May 2009
Anthony Steen reveals brass neck and sheer arrogance
Yesterday Tory MP, Anthony Steen launched a “spirited and controversial” (for that read downright stupid and arrogant) defence of the parliamentary expenses system. In his view it is public "jealousy" that has fuelled the recent storm over expense claims (if jealousy describes downright anger. He also stated that taxpayers have no right to see the details of individual MPs' claims.
Mr Steen made his comments in a BBC interview shortly after announcing that he would be standing down at the next election. It had emerged that he claimed £87,729 over four years to maintain his Devon country house. The payments included money to inspect some of the 500 trees surrounding the property and to guard his shrubs from rabbits.
"I think I have behaved impeccably. I have done nothing criminal. And you know what it's about? Jealousy. I have got a very, very large house. Some people say it looks like Balmoral, but it's a merchant's house from the 19th century," he said. "We have a wretched Government here that has completely mucked up the system and caused the resignation of me and many others, because it was this Government that introduced the Freedom of Information Act and it is this Government that insisted on the things which caught me on the wrong foot."
He compared the recent stream of revelations to a soap opera, he said: "What right does the public have to interfere in my private life? None. Do you know what this reminds me of? An episode of Coronation Street. This is a kangaroo court."
Unsurprisingly Tory chiefs are less than pleased that wealthy MPs are seen to be milking the expenses system (and for the record, as a Labour party member I am bloody furious about the greed of a Labour MPs) has undermined attempts to modernise the party's image. Steen has been warned to stay silent in future or be stripped of the party whip.
Steen later issued an abject apology, saying: "I was so deeply upset with the situation, which resulted in me overreacting. I am sorry that in the heat of the moment I said inappropriate things... about the Freedom of Information Act, which I entirely support."
If Steen had had any sense he would have made a few words of contrition, paid the money back, then shut the hell up until he stood down next year. In the meantime Parliament could have gotten on with urgent Augean-stable style cleaning (as it must do of course)
I know the expenses scandal has been news for several weeks now and has seen the downfall of a rather mediocre Speaker (and hopefully the deselection of some greedy Labour MPs) but Steen just takes the biscuit. I don’t bother much with political posts (even though the Poor Mouth was initially intended to be at least partly a political blog) but I didn’t think things could have hit a lower point... until he opened his mouth.
I wonder when the public will start to hold politicians in higher regard than dog turds.