Once again, Rochdale’s nominally Labour MP Simon Danczuk finds himself in the news, and once again it is for all the wrong reasons. Although his latest problem (thankfully) does not involve his publicity-seeking ex-wife Karen, “sexting” a 17-year-old girl, or the minutiae of his brief relationship with a 22-year-old woman with whom he enjoyed sexual congress over the desk in his taxpayer-funded constituency office, it does involve money.
Make that taxpayers’ money. The press is, not surprisingly, hot on Spanker Si and his expense claims, given he had to pay back a five-figure sum recently after claiming accommodation costs for his two oldest children, neither of whom has seen him in several years. And those claims are routinely set out for public perusal on the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) website.
It was to the IPSA website that the Mirror came in search of a little cheap copy, only to discover than Danczuk had, during the past year, racked up a bill for train fares that put him almost at the top of the train fare claimant league. As the paper has told, “Suspended MP Simon Danczuk claimed nearly £10,000 on train journeys last year...the most of any politician in the country … Mr Danczuk claimed for 97 first class journeys in 2015/16, totalling £9,978. He claimed for 26 standard trips at a cost of £1,248”.
That makes not just £10,000, but rather more than £11,200. The Mirror concluded that “The Rochdale MP claimed for the most first class journeys of any MP in the country - and made the third highest cash claim overall”. So what was Spanker Si’s excuse? “I travel back and forth between London and my constituency more than nearly any other MP … That is because, unlike many of my colleagues, I hold an advice surgery every week without fail and often attend meetings in Rochdale in the evenings and weekends”.
Yeah, right. An advice surgery at the end of the week, just like scores of other MPs. That should not involve extra train travel. Nor should all those meetings he attends. He would be expected to be at Westminster from Monday to late Wednesday, or lunchtime Thursday, while Parliament is sitting, and then return to his constituency.
That means one return trip - two of those journeys - each week. All of those first class claims will be for trips to and from London (most of the other trains serving the Greater Manchester area don’t have first class). Many of his standard class trips will have been to and from London too. So how many weeks does Parliament sit for in a year? A quick tally of 2016 dates suggests this number is around 32.
So Danczuk should be claiming for no more than 64 journeys. But he’s claiming for almost twice as many - 123. And that excludes claims made for staff or dependent relatives. Why does a backbench MP need to make all those journeys? Strangely, the Mirror hacks do not seem to have noticed the excess travel. Rochdale’s long-suffering electorate just might.
Simon Danczuk should explain why he needs to travel rather more than his colleagues - and then book himself a one-way ticket to the Chiltern Hundreds.