ANDREW PIERCE: The lockdown lords who are leaping for expenses

ANDREW PIERCE: The lockdown lords who are leaping for expenses

Proving their technological skills in a moment of national crisis, peers have been conducting much of their parliamentary business online for months: even Lord Speaker, Lord Fowler, has presided over debates from the comfort of his home.

But some things never change. Amid a bloodbath in the wider economy, their pampered lordships still ran up an eye-popping £1.1 million in tax-free allowances from their sittings earlier this year — even though their daily attendance allowance was halved to £162.

Newly published expenses from April to June reveal the same old snouts have been deepest in the trough.

Lord Taylor of Warwick (pictured in 2011) pocketed £2,268 for the period. You remember him: once the darling of the Tory Party, he was jailed for 12 months in 2011 for falsely claiming £11,277 in expenses

Lord Taylor of Warwick pocketed £2,268 for the period. You remember him: once the darling of the Tory Party, he was jailed for 12 months in 2011 for falsely claiming £11,277 in expenses.

Labour’s Baroness Uddin is now £3,240 richer thanks to your taxes. She was suspended from the Lords for 18 months and repaid a grotesque £125,000 in wrongly claimed accommodation expenses.

Former Labour minister Lord Truscott has enjoyed a boost of £3,402. In 2009, he was among the first peers to be suspended from the Lords since the 17th century after being secretly taped offering to help amend legislation in return for money. He denied any wrongdoing, but resigned from the Labour Party.

Labour’s Baroness Uddin (pictured in 2010) is now £3,240 richer thanks to your taxes. She was suspended from the Lords for 18 months and repaid a grotesque £125,000 in wrongly claimed accommodation expenses

Finally, businessman Lord Bhatia, suspended in 2010 for wrongly claiming £27,446 in housing costs (later repaid) and suspended again in 2016 for falsely claiming his mileage expenses, drew £1,620.

‘Shameless’ is not even the word for it all!

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden, who is thought to distrust Boris, nonetheless called him before any other European leaders. But as one Tory MP mutters: ‘He obviously wanted to get the difficult stuff out of the way first.’ Ouch! 

Dancer Rishi is Strictly ambitious

During the pandemic, Rishi Sunak has won praise for his skilful performances at the despatch box. But the Chancellor is not just a dab hand at thinking on his feet — it turns out he’s quick on them, too.

In his biography of the Chancellor, Going For Broke: The Rise Of Rishi Sunak, Lord Ashcroft reveals that ‘Dishy Rishi’ has a talent for ballroom dancing. As an undergraduate at Oxford, Sunak made it to the semi-final of a dance competition.

‘He is something of a natural,’ purrs Ashcroft, praising Rishy’s ‘slinky moves’. A relief to know that if Sunak fails in his thinly disguised bid to become the next prime minister, he can always try going for the glitterball trophy on Strictly instead.

In his biography of the Chancellor, Going For Broke: The Rise Of Rishi Sunak,Lord Ashcroft reveals that ‘Dishy Rishi’ has a talent for ballroom dancing

In the Times Literary Supplement earlier this month, former Cabinet minister Rory Stewart launched a blistering attack on the Prime Minister, branding him the ‘most accomplished liar in public life’. Boris fans, indignant at their hero being mocked in this way, took to sending me an anagram of Stewart’s name: ‘Sorry wet rat.’ Quite!

Former Cabinet minister Rory Stewart (pictured in January) launched a blistering attack on the Prime Minister, branding him the ‘most accomplished liar in public life’

 WILL DOM BE KING OF THE CASTLE?

Following Dominic Cummings’s dramatic ousting as Boris Johnson’s chief adviser over clashes with the PM’s fiancee Carrie Symonds, perhaps the eccentric egghead plans a new career.

How about the tourism industry?

According to John Blissett, mayor of historic market town Barnard Castle, Cummings has been a fabulous ambassador after infamously travelling to the County Durham beauty spot in the spring to ‘test his eyesight’. As a result of all the free publicity, the area was swamped with ‘staycationers’.

Following Dominic Cummings’s (pictured outside his north London home on Saturday) dramatic ousting as Boris Johnson’s chief adviser over clashes with the PM’s fiancee Carrie Symonds, perhaps the eccentric egghead plans a new career

‘We have so many visitors, but we need a new tourist guide,’ said Mr Blissett. ‘We think Dominic Cummings would do a great job.’

With Cummings so familiar with the area, I dare say he could describe it with his eyes closed.

Of course, we may not have seen the last of Cummings in Whitehall. When axed as then education secretary Michael Gove’s special adviser in 2014, he continued to visit government departments — signing in under the tasteless nom de plume Osama bin Laden.

Hopefully that one might raise eyebrows among the police guarding No 10.

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