"Parliament's problem is the idea that political ideas no longer matter" -Roy Hattersley
MPs Quit - And Blame The Voters
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Ian Gibson, Anthony Steen and Ben Chapman are quitting as MPs, even though they all said they obeyed the rules
Sam Coates, Chief Political Correspondent, and Philip Webster, Political Editor - The Times
MPs caught up in the expenses scandal blamed the anger of their constituents and the public backlash for their decision to quit Parliament.
Ben Chapman, Labour, and Anthony Steen, a Conservative, said that they would stand down at the next election while maintaining that they had done nothing wrong.
Last night the Labour MP Ian Gibson also offered to stand down if the voters asked him to, amid claims that he sold a taxpayer-subsidised property to a member of his family. He insisted that he had acted within the rules.
In an astonishing outburst Mr Steen, who spent £90,000 on his second home, including big sums for lopping trees in its grounds, said that his critics were jealous because he lived in a large house. He blamed the Freedom of Information Act for his plight and asked what right the public had to interfere with his private life.
“I’ve done nothing criminal, that’s the most awful thing, and do you know what it’s about? Jealousy,” he told the BBC. “I’ve got a very, very large house. Some people say it looks like Balmoral. It’s a merchant’s house of the 19th century. It’s not particularly attractive, it just does me nicely.”
Mr Steen later apologised after being threatened by David Cameron with removal from the party.
Mr Chapman, who overclaimed £15,000 in mortgage interest, allegedly on erroneous advice from the Commons Fees Office, said he was standing down because of the effect of the hurtful publicity on his friends, family and supporters. “I maintain that I have done nothing wrong and have acted in good faith and with absolute transparency.”
Douglas Hogg is the only other MP to stand down voluntarily. The former Tory Cabinet minister said on Tuesday that he was retiring over claims he submitted for cleaning his moat.
Sir Peter Viggers, a Tory MP, was ordered by Mr Cameron to retire at the next election over his claims for the cost of his duck pond.
The Labour MPs Elliot Morley and David Chaytor have been suspended over mortgage claims while Shahid Malik stood down from his role as a Justice minister over the location of his main home. All say the claims were within the rules but face expulsion from the party if they cannot prove their innocence. Up to 100 MPs are said to be considering standing down, with several admitting to The Times that they have lost confidence in their abilities to represent their constituencies.
Nadine Dorries, the Tory MP, said that there was too much pressure on parliamentarians. “The atmosphere in Westminster is unbearable. People are constantly checking if others are OK. Everyone fears a suicide,” she wrote on her blog.
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