The latest attack from the Tories on Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper has been covered in the Sunday Times today (£), as Andrew Bridgen MP (named on Wednesday by ConservativeHome as a “trainee attack dog“) railed against the costs associated with taking their children to and from their constituencies.
There’s only one problem though – this desperate attack is both unclear, and leaves government ministers open to attack. Caroline Spelman and Danny Alexander have, over the three years that the Sunday Times have highlighted, claimed more on their own in family travel (children and spouses) than Ed and Yvette combined (£14,117).
- Danny Alexander – £3762 + £8457 + £10,829 = £23,048
- Caroline Spelman – £6960 + £5616 + £2034 = £14,610
This isn’t the first time that Tory MPs have tried complaining about Ed and Yvette before for political reasons. Last time the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards rejected the complaint and said they had acted “fully in accordance with the letter and spirit of the rules of the House”.
Tory Malcolm Moss, who wrote a letter to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards about the couple’s expenses, told the Wakefield Express back in 2008:
“I haven’t accused them of doing anything wrong. It’s the fact the press was full of stories on the Tory side of expenses, which is why I have written this letter now.”
Then, as now, it seems that the Tories are trying to attack Cooper and Balls to cover their own difficulties – such as finishing a poor third place behind UKIP in a by-election for example.
It’s well known in Westminster circles that both Yvette and Ed travel between Yorkshire and London every week while parliament is sitting. They take their children – three of them, all aged under twelve – because obviously neither has a spouse who is able to stay behind and look after the children while the other is away.
Shadow children’s minister Sharon Hodgson was scathing about Bridgen earlier today, saying:
“The thing I’ve always respected about Ed and Yvette is that while they have been in the public eye they’ve always protected their children and kept them out of politics.”
“So this is a desperate new low from the Tories to try to drag their children into a political fight. Andrew Bridgen was described this week as one of David Cameron’s ‘new generation of attack dogs’ and now we see the gutter politics this will mean.”
“Did he check the claims of his own Cabinet? Ed and Yvette have to be in Parliament and their constituencies each week and they also take their family responsibilities very seriously. Who on earth does Mr Bridgen think is supposed to look after their children if they have to leave them behind in London or Yorkshire? He isn’t living in the real world.”
“Last time a Tory MP made a complaint about Ed and Yvette’s expenses it was completely rejected and the Tories admitted it was motivated by party politics. And this is yet another bogus and politically-motivated complaint.”
We can only agree with Sharon, and hope that if Tory fortunes decline even further, we won’t see more attacks like this appearing. We’ll be keeping an eye out.