One of the biggest political scandals in a generation erupted when national newspapers revealed details of large-scale expenses abuses by Westminster MPs. For the politicians involved the consequences were serious, and for some of the worst offenders it was a career-ending disaster. With hindsight, however, it turns out that many of the items representatives charged to the taxpayer were hilariously bizarre. Here is a small selection of the very weirdest.
David Heathcoat-Amory, MP for Wells, Somerset, charged the taxpayer £388 for over 500 sacks of horse manure. At least he was consistent with the gardening theme: he also claimed £1.95 for sunflower seeds and a fiver to repair a puncture on his wheelbarrow. In a similarly horticultural vein, fellow Conservative Party member Michael Spicer (now Baron Spicer) claimed nearly £7,000 of gardening expenses, including £600 to trim the hedges around his helipad.
It wasn’t just gardening expenses that caused outrage. Current Education Secretary Michael Gove, then MP for Surrey Heath, claimed £135 for a set of ornately carved elephant-shaped lamps. Wantage MP Ed Vaizey also raised eyebrows when it was revealed he blew nearly two thousand pounds of taxpayer’s money shopping on a luxury online retailer owned by David Cameron’s mother-in-law. We all appreciate a great range of wardrobes, stylish tables and perhaps even some quirky light fixtures, but it does seem rather cheeky to charge your shopping spree to the public purse.
Not that all the claims were extravagant – some were bizarre for the opposite reason. Veteran Labour left-winger Austin Mitchell claimed 67p for crinkly ginger biscuits, Beaconsfield’s Dominic Grieve required 61p for ‘cheese things’ and Romford’s Andrew Rosindell claimed the princely sum of £1.31 for a jar of jellied eels.
The strangest and most infamous claim of all was Sir Peter Viggers’ Duck House. Making up over £1000 of the Gosport MP’s £30,000 of gardening expenses, the object in question was a small shelter for his webbed-footed friends that floated in the middle of a sizeable lake at his constituency home. It was eventually auctioned for charity after Viggers was pushed out, so at least some good came from the bizarre claim.