On November 3rd the Sunday Mirror published an article which, it said, showed MPs were claiming expenses – sometime very large amounts – to cover the cost of their energy bills for their second homes, i.e. those homes they designate as their second for parliamentary expenses purposes. The major target for the story was Tory MP, Mr Nadhim Zahawi who claimed £5,822.27 to cover electricity and heating oil for his estate in Warwickshire that he claims is his second home.
On November 6th, Mr Mulholland published a highly critical response to the Mirror article on his website. He stated that the article was, “an abuse of our free press.” He accepted that, “there may very well be an issue with a few MPs having very high energy bills” and asserted that with his legitimate and extremely modest energy expense claims he was not one of them.
The Mirror article upset Mr Mulholland so much that he devoted 1290 words to the subject, which is around five times longer than his usual postings and six times more than his very important and serious discussion of the context of his voting intention on the intervention in Syria. As it happens, we still do not officially know how he voted on the Government motion but it looks like he either abstained or did not vote at all.
Anyway the point is he was upset with the Mirror. What appears to have particularly annoyed him is that he thought the Mirror had tarred him with the same brush as MPs such as Nadhim Zahawi.
Subsequently, Mr Zahawi has apologised. In a statement posted on his own website he said:
“Since last week’s coverage of my energy bills I have been looking into them further and can confirm that all claims for heating fuel relate purely to my second home.
“However I have made a mistake with my electricity claims.
“On investigation I have discovered that the electricity supply for a mobile home located in the stable yard and for the stables themselves was linked to my house.
“Whilst a meter was installed in the stable yard I have only been receiving one bill, it was wrong to assume I was receiving two and to have not checked this sooner.
“I am mortified by this mistake and apologise unreservedly for it.”
Anyone can make a mistake even those whose second home has a stable attached!
We think Mr Mulholland is right to be upset; right to be aggrieved.
It must be awful when a powerful institution attacks you – even if only by association – by using selective, sometimes anecdotal, evidence, deploying a mixture of facts and opinions expressed in highly sensationalist language, manipulates statistics to confirm a prejudice and generalizing from particular cases.
Welcome to Cameron and Clegg’s world, Mr Mulholland!!! Now you have just a small sense of what it might be like:
– To be called a scrounger because you are in receipt of housing benefit;
– To be called a home-blocker because you have a ‘spare bedroom’ in your council flat even though the room is used for storing your disability equipment;
– To be confronted by billboards on the sides of vans implying that you are an illegal immigrant even though you and your family have lived in the country for decades;
– To have the misfortune to be terminally ill and still be required to look for work because only skivers don’t look for work;
– To be thought neglectful of your children because you, a single parent, have to hold down three jobs to make ends meet;
– To be vilified as heartless in your employment as a carer because you are only allocated 15 minutes with each elderly client;
– To have the indignity of seeking help from Food Banks only to be told by the likes of Michael Gove, Edwina Currie and Iain Duncan Smith that it is your fault – you are feckless parents or you are ‘rational opportunists’ or you are ‘economically incompetent.’
So Mr Mulholland is right to have a go at the Mirror if he thinks it has misrepresented him over expenses.
But he shouldn’t expect a great deal of sympathy from Labour.
It is, after all, the Lib Dem and Tory government, of which he is a part, that is, on a daily basis:
– dismantling the health service and the welfare state;
– dividing Britain into the deserving and undeserving poor;
– misrepresenting those who don’t have a voice.
And if Mr Mulholland thinks that we are finding him guilty by association then he might be right.
Britain Can Do Better Than This