While Foreign Secretary, Margaret Beckett put in a bill for £638.03 to renew the lighting in her sun lounge. The papers also show that Mrs Beckett had a claim for garden expenses partially rejected, with £600 for plants and pergola disallowed.To consider our beloved ex-leader for a moment: at the time he spent £10,000 of our money refurbishing his kitchen, Blair had two official homes - 10 Downing Street and Chequers. His constituency house, Myrobella, was thus his third residence, and not one which I imagine he spent much time in. His salary was then well over £150,000 a year, and his wife was earning considerably more. A little over a year after claiming £10,000 for Myrobella's kitchen, the Blairs spent roughly £3.5 million on a town house in Bayswater - their current primary residence. They are also, infamously, the owners of two flats in the nicest part of Bristol.
As Mr Blair was preparing to send British troops to Iraq, he also had more mundane domestic concerns on his mind. In March 2003, a new kitchen was fitted in his constituency home in Trimdon Colliery, Co Durham, at a cost to the taxpayer of £6,500.
Two months later, another bill arrived to cover the £4,174 cost of other work to the kitchen, including fitting cupboards and tiles and redecorating the room. It brought the total expense of the Blairs' new kitchen to £10,674.
During 2005, the then Prime Minister claimed for utility bills, as well as £515.75 for a dishwasher and £50 on servicing an Aga stove in 2002.
By contrast, Gordon Brown spent just £4,471 refurbishing his own kitchen in Fife, including its Seville cream wall tiles, in 2005. Mr Brown's claims include bills for £1,396 for redecoration as well as the £33-a-month cost of his Sky TV connection.[...]
Peter Mandelson, formerly Mr Blair's closest confidant, must have fitted one of Hartlepool's most extravagant showers. The bill for fitting a shower and decorating the bathroom in his constituency home in July 2003 – a year before he resigned to become a European Commissioner – was £2,981.
John Prescott, the former deputy prime minister, claimed £6,707.06 to cover external repairs to his constituency home in Hull in 2005, including replacing windows and sills and supplying and fixing mock Tudor boards to the front gable.
Stevenage MP Barbara Follett, the wife of millionaire novelist Ken Follett, claimed more than £1,600 for window cleaning at her London home, with the cleaners visiting on 18 occasions at £94 a time during 2003-04.
All of which adds up to the question: why on Earth should the public be expected to cough up the money to buy these multi-millionaires a new kitchen in a house they rarely inhabit? Well, I suppose there is no greater reason to object to this than to the public funding Gordon Brown's Sky connection, or Peter Mandelson's new shower (although it doesn't matter how often you wash, Mandy - the taint of corruption isn't coming off!), or John Prescott's "mock Tudor boards".
The fact is, that these luxuries should be paid for by the people who want them, and who benefit from them. If MPs want Sky connections and new showers, then should they do what everyone else does, and purchase them themselves, out of their own salaries.
What these details also reveal (if it is indeed a revelation), is that MPs are a set of grasping chancers, who look to claim whatever they can get away with, rather than what is fair or reasonable. How else can you explain the audacity of Margaret Beckett's demand that the taxpayer should shell out for her Dahlias? Or, indeed, any of the claims highlighted above?