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20 May 2009

Fast news

Who, me?

DAVID CAMERON (salary 141,820) has claimed the moral high ground during the MPs' expenses scandal by demanding that Tory MPs repay any expenses claimed for personal gain. Cameron himself has repaid 680 for having his wisteria treated (that's not a medical problem). However, the Old Etonian hasn't repaid the 82,450 in mortgage interest payments he claimed over the last four years.

Another holier-than-thou hypocrite is Labour's communities secretary Hazel Blears (salary 141,866). Blears repaid the 13,392 capital gains tax she avoided when selling one of her three homes but not the 45,000 profit she made from the deal.

Taxing issue

THE DAILY Telegraph, which is rumoured to have paid 150,000 for a copy of the leaked MPs' expenses dossier, said in its editorial (15/5/09) that there is an overwhelming case for HM Revenue and Customs to "subject MPs' claims with the same rigorous examination that they extend to everyone else's tax affairs". Hear, hear!

However, you cannot help but think that there's more than a little cant (hypocrisy) being expressed by the Telegraph as its current owners - the Barclay brothers, Sir David and Sir Frederick - are in fact 'tax exiles'. These 'non-doms', who list their home address as Monaco, also happen to own the channel island of Brecqhou.

In December 2008 the Barclays stood candidates for election to the neighbouring island of Sark's parliament. Much to the brothers' disgust, 90% of the island's tiny electorate voted against their candidates. Feeling miffed the Barclays immediately upped and left taking their 5 million a year investment with them, closing down their shops and building work on their properties, and leaving many workers redundant!

Parliament ban

MICHAEL MARTIN, when he's not having to resign as Parliament's speaker over his handling of the MPs' expenses scandal, has helped to draft legislation - along with Tory-run Westminster council, the Home Office and the Met police - to ban protesters from Parliament Square.

The new law would allow the police to remove long-time anti-war protester Brian Haw and to move on the Tamil demonstrators currently protesting against the war in Sri Lanka. Martin ironically described the recent Tamils' protest as an "absolute shambles".

Class sizes

LABOUR'S TIRED "education, education, education," mantra has an even more hollow ring following the publication of government figures that show the proportion of infant classes with more than 30 pupils has risen in the last year. The number of five to seven-year-olds being taught in 'unlawfully large classes' has more than doubled in two years, to over 10,000.

The government says that overall since 1997, when Labour came to power, class sizes have fallen. But the proportion of children taught in classes of more than 30 has been growing in the past few years.

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