Shahid Malik is being used as a scapegoat

8:17 pm - May 16th 2009

by Sunny Hundal    

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Shahid Malik became the first government minister to step down as an investigation was launched into allegations of financial impropriety.

By claiming that his main home was in his constituency he was able to nominate his London home as his second home, allowing him to use expenses – the maximum of £66,827 over the three years he has been an MP – to furnish and keep it. Among the items that he had claimed for was a £2,600 home cinema system, including a 40-inch flat screen television. The Commons fees office agreed to pay half. He also claimed for a £730 massage chair.

None of this is defensible in my view. But if a minister is being asked to stand down while an investigation is taking place, why doesn’t the same apply to Hazel Blears and James Purnell – who are accused of gaining financially by flipping their homes. As Peter Oborne pointed out yesterday:

He has been accused of pocketing thousands of pounds in expenses and avoiding taxes by designating one of his properties as both a main residence and second home. And yet Purnell is responsible for catching benefit cheats!

Indeed! But will Brown suspend him? Nope. Darling? No. Malik is paying for Brown’s lack of courage. In fact both Cameron and Brown have offered easy sacrifical lambs. And yet if they were serious about punishing people who personally benefited by abusing the expenses system, then they would remove people from the front-bench. Peter Oborne again:

No one with an ounce of decency could ever vote for a party represented by either Francis Maude (who claimed almost £35,000 in two years for mortgage interest payments on a London flat when he owned a house just a few hundred yards away) or multi-millionaire Alan Duncan (who claimed more than £4,000 of taxpayers’ money ‘to cover the basic essentials of grass cutting’).

Incidentally, I am reliably informed that Duncan shows little of the contrition away from the cameras that he expressed in front of them. In private conversation he declared that MPs should receive salaries of more than £100,000 and that their expenses should be kept secret. These remarks are significant because, as Shadow Leader of the Commons, Duncan has a big influence in these matters.

In other news, there is apparently a demonstration on Wednesday in Westminster

This is a press release I received

WEDNESDAY 20th MAY. 12 Noon till 2PM

Mrs Allison Edwards a housewife from Telford, Shropshire, mother of a severely autistic 12 year old son, furious about the battles for resources she has endured for years, has decided to act. She has been granted permission by police to hold a demonstration outside the Houses of Parliament on Wednesday 20th May, from 12-2pm during PMQ’s to call for Parliament to be dissolved.

“We need a public demonstration declaring ‘no confidence’ in this Parliament the present politicians will never recognise the true impact the behaviour of some MP’s over expenses has had upon us all”.

The trust is gone!

All are welcome to join in a peaceful demonstration of people power.
Contact : Mrs Allison Edwards Email address:

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Crime ,Labour party ,Westminster

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Reader comments

I don’t know anything of the detail of the case. But your post’s scapegoat/inconsistency argument misses the point of what the investigation is about (citing different issues about Maliks’ claims and compares them to other people, but not citing what is being investigated).

But what is being investigated is a specific issue which falls under the Ministerial code: the rent paid on his Dewsbury home. It is being investigated under the process for the ministerial code.
– was there a discount which would count as a gift, which would then be declarable in the register of interests. (If he is paying a commercial rent, there isn’t)

Guardian report ..

“The Daily Telegraph had revealed that the justice minister had benefited from a “discounted” rent on the three-bedroom house he registered as his main home in his Dewsbury constituency, which was not declared on the register of members’ interests.

Yesterday, after appearing on TV to defend his position, Malik stepped down and the prime minister asked the government’s independent adviser on ministerial interests, Sir Philip Mawer, to investigated whether the £100 rent he paid was a “preferential” amount that the code of conduct says should be declared.

The evidence seemed to turn on an interview Malik’s landlord, local businessman Tahir Zaman, gave to the Telegraph saying Malik was “definitely paying well under the market value for the rent”. Later Zaman revised his position and said Malik had received no special treatment. No 10 said that pending the outcome of the investigation – expected within days – Malik would not be replaced”.

Sunny, would you please forward me the demonstation press release asap to I’d love to publicise this event at Same Difference. Thanks a lot.

Let’s face it, we all know why he’s had to stand down when the others get off scott free.

4. the a&e charge nurse

“if they were serious about punishing people who personally benefited by abusing the expenses system” …………. then I suspect it might leave us with a rather sparsely populated lower chambre?

After Jaqui’s ‘porngate’ voters are now being subjected to an epidemic of ‘oversightitis’.

But I suppose none of this new – will there be a case for retrospective justice?

Malik is no scapegoat – bloody fool, yes. He had to step down due to the Ministerial Code. He has some explaining to do. Others – Morley – should be made to answer charges of fraud.

Malik’s standing down, as Sunder says, isn’t to do with the expenses row, it’s unrelated but has come out as a result.

His constituency home is rented at a peppercorn amount, and he’s not declared that. Undeclared payments in kind from others, including local property owners in the constituency, are corruption, pure and simple.

It’s not an expenses fraud, it’s undeclared outside interests, and while I agree others should go as well, this is a completely different scandal.

If you want me to go over to Dewsbury and/or ring some local contacts LMK, it’s a neighbouring constituency and I did some campaigning there last year.

Sunder: so is avoiding Capital Gains Tax, and profiting from the flipping of houses not outside ministerial ‘code of conduct’?

Otherwise why did Hazel Blears offer to pay it back?

Sarah – that is all the info I have, you’re welcome to copy and paste what I published above.

“it’s undeclared outside interests”

That’s right. A cynic could suggest that an ambitious property investor might consider it good business to offer a nice deal to his local MP. Years ago it would never have been on the radar. Churchill had lots of people doing him favours when he was out of office …

(But unless it can be shown that Malik returned the favour it’s not exactly major league corruption. Anyway, I wouldn’t imagine the guy’s on Malik’s Christmas card list any more after cheerfully admitting to the press that he gave him a good deal. I see he’s since changed his story)

9. Shatterface

A scapegoat is someone or something blamed for others misdeeds: Malik has been punished for something he’s done. Hopefully he’ll be far from the last.

He’s not a scapegoat, he’s a start.

10. Chris Baldwin

“Incidentally, I am reliably informed that Duncan shows little of the contrition away from the cameras that he expressed in front of them.”

Well duh!

11. Silent Hunter

Oh yeah right.

I was wondering how long it would take before some one played the race card on this.
It’s easy to read between the lines here Sunny – you’re that transparent.

The mans a bloody crook and it doesn’t matter whether he’s Black, Brown, Green or Blue, he’s STILL a crook regardless of any other factors.

Having said that – you do have a point about why all the other government crooks aren’t being fingered in the same way – perhaps it’s because he went so public in claiming his innocence before having to shut the f*** up because it was obvious to all that he was as guilty as sin.

12. Shatterface

(10) Duncan wasn’t exactly contrite on Have I Got News For You? a week or so back. His response to Ian Hislop’s accusations was ‘Great, isn’t it?’

13. political_animal

A scapegoat… only in the sense that Brown and Cameron are having to ratchet up their responses to each new revelation, with increasingly harsh recriminations. First it was ignorance, then it was a light telling off, now we are on to the removing off the whip and resignations. It’s all just a political game to try and appear the stronger leader. You have to wonder what they will do next?

Malik dug a big hole for himself with an early interview. He as has accepted property at below market rent from a property developer wit a dodgy background and claimed maximum allowances for his primary home. He is just one of many who should be interviewed by the Police.

Thanks Sunny. Have done that and linked this post.

16. journeyman

There is always in the end,because that is human nature, the unaviodable correlation between both the lucrative “fringe benefits “, the perversion of morallity by denial , leading to an entire cabal of politicians who will do anything to prevent anyone rocking the boat and threatning their financial comfort zone.
One can,t help wondering about the staggering sum of 6,billion euro,s (surely I must have mis-read ) which have unaccountabley disappeared concerning E.U. parliamentary expense accounts over the last decade,( Deafening silence ).
The effect this type of culture has on democracy becomes devastating. Which M.P or M.E.P is going to oppose an amendment,bill or legislation,if it endangers the future of their financial career.
European M.P,s must be looking at Brussels and thinking “boy , if you thought it was good here,just wait until I get to the E.U.
This sort of thing spreads like a disease towards “Banana Republicanism”.and once it gathers enough momentum,there are so many people on the gravy-train it becomes almost impossible to stop.
A politician should be irreproachable,like a policeman,because of their position.

Well Sunny, no its not against the code. Thats the issue here- Malik isn’t being made a scapegoat, if it wasn’t for this other issue that was found almost by accident then we can be sure he would be in office like everyone else. The issue isn’t Malik being made a scapegoat, this issue is the avoidance by the government (and other parties) of taking any serious action whenever possible.

Two wrongs don’t make a right you know.

Of course those others should go too; but so should he.

This week’s HIGNFY had a great juxtaposition of Duncan’s “contrition” versus his “isn’t it great” smirkiness on the show a week or so before.
Arrogant useless twat.
(and cowardly – he wrote a book a few years ago which included drug legalization – needless to say when he was promoted he changed his mind)

19. Mike Killingworth

Given the likely composition of the next Parliament, I think Duncan’s position is far more significant.

I would expect MPs expenses to be exempted from the FoI Act fairly sharpish, possibly by ministerial Order.

If they exempted it now the people in this country would end up voting for smaller parties independents and the BNP just to show the Parties that the people have the power, not sure who I will vote for at the moment leaning to wards the UKIP at the moment, why well why not

Regarding second homes in London, why can’t it be so arranged that the constituency owns any London property? An amount allocated for refurbishment every 5 years (plus maintenance), no nonsense about how long a commute should be, no expenses allocated for the constituency home.

Any and all expenses would then be office related only and the Fees office would be smaller and more efficient.

Chris, I’ve been working around that sort of idea in my head and talked to a few people about it. The biggest issues are boundary changes/seat abolishing (for example, at the next GE Sarah Teather MP will be fighting Dawn Butler MP as their seats have effectively merged) and then there are issues related to MPs that already own property/live in London or who aren’t resident in the constituency they’re elected to represent (Dawn Butler famously had no local links when first elected).

You could get around it by an MP being elected tagging the home to a specific town and say the constituency that town is in gets it, but even there there’d be problems. FWIW, before the electoral system was changed significantly in the 19th C, many MPs were considered to be working for the borough/city they were elected by, Exeter maintained a house in London for their “burghers” to stay in while on business at court/in London, for example.

But, that goes back to the days when the city was a corporation that was owned by the wealthy inhabitants, instead of a municipality with free elections.

It’s an idea to play with, but the problem is always individual circumstances.

Robert—of the 6 UKIP MEPs elected at the last european elections, 2 have been expelled/jailed for fraud or similar offences. Farage’s “clean hands” rhetoric is just that, something he knows he can get away with as the media won’t pick him up on it. He’s the only actually competent MEP they’ve got, and that’s only using a broad definition of the word competent.

Yes I was aware of the problems of UKIP, perhaps we might even have a few Labour MP’s worthy of kicking out for fraud, like lets see taking money for a mortgage. I’ve never in my life seen politics being dragged through the gutter, I suspect mind you during my youth I might have been surprised if we had freedom of information then. But anger around my area is high at the moment because we did not get the chance to pick our MP, she was dropped into the safe seat, although right now I’d not call it safe.

Well gone are the days of any Labour MP telling us we have done this because we want to try our best for the people, mind you one did today on TV.

I think we should be very careful who we defend over matter of potential impropriety in the current climate.

Supposedly we were to expect our politicians to be ‘whiter than white’.

Well, now they are starting to reap what they have sown.

It’s still a shame that records of ACA claims only go back to 2001. What, were they stored on paper in the WTC?

Thomas, I’m guessing it’s normal accountancy practice. Businesses keep general records going back decades, but only keep receipts for 6 financial years—the FOI campaign to get them published started 2 years ago, thus everything since ’01 is kept.

Seriously, keeping every single receipt tendered, let alone digitising them, is going to be considered more effort than it’s worth by those in charge. Of course, now they’re in the open we know that’s not the case, but…

You can look up how much total was claimed before then, but not get a breakdown of each receipt.

27.MatGB. If an MP has been claiming the maximum expenses for several years then this looks suspicious. Perhaps to claim large amounts for the first year may be needed, but once a home has been set up then he claims should fall. There would be still the issue of where the second home was located but the question could be asked of the MP. Where an MP’s constituency is within an hours commute of London, there is massive doubts as to wheher a second home is needed

28. John Meredith

“Regarding second homes in London, why can’t it be so arranged that the constituency owns any London property?”

Why make it so complicated? Simply pay rental and utilities to a maximum amount on a second London property and have done with it. £24k p.a. will rent you a very nice flat even in London. There could be a one-off furnishing allowance too, perhaps.

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