And so it came to pass that the Independent Group of MPs proceeded, fresh-faced and bushy-tailed, to give each of themselves a portfolio role, a department to shadow, if you will. The list shows that many have merely taken whichever Commons committees they may have been sitting on most recently, and assumed that as their shadow role. But there has been one stand-out own goal among the routine stuff.
Problem is, there are not very many MPs and a lot of portfolios to shadow. So Heidi Allen gets welfare, with which she is familiar, and also business, which she may not be. Likewise Mike Gapes gets foreign policy, in which he has a longstanding interest, as well as defence, which for him may be an unknown area. And Chris Leslie gets Treasury, so it looks like TIG will not be attacking austerity any time soon.
But then comes Joan Ryan. The Right Honourable Member for Enfield North has been made the TIG “Group business manager, and international development”. International Development, eh? What suits her for that role, except for a number of overseas trips undertaken by groups of MPs, including one to Australia, another to Cameroon, and a period as Prime Minister’s special representative to Cyprus?
Then there is the “Business manager” part of her role. This will, let us not drive this one around the houses for too long, raise eyebrows and cause muffled laughter across Parliament and elsewhere. Let’s look at what her Wikipedia entry says here.
“In October 2007, the Evening Standard reported that Ryan had claimed £173,691 in expenses in the 2006/2007 tax year, the highest of any MP in London. She had been the second-highest claimant in the previous tax year. In May 2007, Ryan had voted in favour of David Maclean's Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill, which would have kept details of parliamentary expenses secret”. Good business. But only for Herself.
There is more. “During the parliamentary expenses scandal, The Daily Telegraph revealed in May 2009 that Ryan had spent £4,500 of expenses on a second home in Enfield before ‘flipping’ it with her main home, a flat in south London. Between 2004 and 2008, she had designated her house in Enfield, which was in her constituency, as a second home. She designated her main home during that period as a south London flat she bought in 2004. She had spent £1,045 on repairs and refurbishment to the second home in 2007/2008, and £3,624 on it during 2008/2009”. More good business. But only for Herself.
Ms Ryan protested her innocence, despite it looking, well, bad. But Wikipedia then notes “In Thomas Legg's February 2010 audit report of expenses claims, Ryan was asked to repay £5,121.74 for mortgage interest claims. By the time of publication of the report, she had only paid £322.45”. Now she’s the Independent Group’s business manager.
And this is part of what is described as “this next step for The Independent Group”. Looks more of a mis-step right now. There may be more popcorn moments to come.
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