James Gray and I are separated by more than just one syllable, but it’s been interesting following his progress since he announced he was dumping his cancer-surviving wife for another woman. Interestingly, more Conservative-leaning members of the blogosphere don’t share my interest. Here however is my handy cut-out-and-keep guide to the saga so far:
Personally, I was unaware until recently – and it certainly hasn’t been widely reported – that Ellie Brand, the approved Tory candidate who was felled for passing around a racist email, is a North Wiltshire constituent of Mr Gray’s and thus a possible beneficiary of his deselection. Coinkidink?
Secondly, the West edition of the Politics Show this Sunday, revealed that he has recently taken out a full page advert in his local paper about his local activities, at taxpayers’ expense. By his own admission on the Politics Show, he usually gets such communications delivered by local Conservatives. All MPs regularly contact their constituents in this way, but it is rather fortuitous timing, to say the least.
Rather more eyebrow raising however is the revelation that the reason his wife is being forced out of their family home is that “James has to use it as his constituency office.”
I have to say I’m unaware of any other MP who uses their home as their constituency office – why would they even want to? But what this means is that both his London home and his constituency home are both being subsidised by the taxpayer. A glance at his expenses reveals that last year he claimed Â£22k in Additional Costs Allowance (the money that goes to non-London MPs to live in London during the week) and Â£20k on Incidental Expenses Provision (which includes office costs, but excludes staff costs). Unfortunately, MPs have thus far resisted calls for a more transparent system of expenses (unlike in the Scottish Parliament which allows you to download individual invoices from its website), and to what extent this money is spent on office space itself and isn’t spent on subsidising his lovely Â£500,000 home is not at all clear. If MPs continue to resist calls for more transparency, then it is only reasonable that issues like this should be investigated as they come up.