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The sounds of silence

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Stephen Hepburn MP

South Tyneside MPs go mute

The Journal has been digging into Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburns expense claims after I’d decided it was too much of time waster (how wrong can you get?). Although I’ve questioned in the past just how his office expenses were so much higher than those of South Shields MP David MIliband it appears that the Sunderland supporting “honourable” Member for Jarrow has a bit of a penchant for boys toys, gadgets, and all things digital, the Journal found that he’d bought with our money:

  • Canon IXUS digital camera and equipment. £476.41 December 2004.
  • Canon IXUS 900 Titanium £299.89. March 2007.
  • Antler OEM Milan Pouch £5.99. March 2007
  • Digital camera £249.99 February 2008.
  • Mobile phone and memory stick. £319. May 2006.
  • Equipment from PC World. £1,951.47 March 2006.

That’s not a bad little haul in four years is it ? Hepburn had this to say:

“Good communications and constituency casework are a vital part of the work of a public representative. A photo is often more striking than a thousand words and as such photos are used in pressing the interests of my constituents be they about traffic hazards or badly kept public facilities.”

He had one camera stolen, so replaced it (some of us have house and contents insurance to cover these things), he has a fax machine, and four telephone lines for each member of his office staff in Jarrow. Is this a constituency office or a call centre Mr. Hepburn? However, I digress, if he had to go out and buy these items for himself out of his own pocket do readers think he may have driven a harder bargain, shopped around and saved a few quid? Yes, I certainly think he might have done, but when it’s somebody else’s money than why go to the bother, easy come, easy go. As for the eye watering prices that he did pay, then the staff at Curry’s PC World obviously saw him coming!

Another feature of this little story is the “wordless Wednesday” theme, most of the MPs questioned by the Journal had very little to say at all in the way of acknowledging the public anger that their profligate expenditure has caused, in fact their silence is almost golden, apart from this little nugget from Hepburn

“A photo is often more striking than a thousand words”,

here’s a striking little fact about Hepburn and photos, a search on Google images for Stephen Hepburn MP turns up just eighteen pictures in the whole wide world, and I “mashed up” two of them. The football loving, camera carrying, digital savvy, expensive MP appears to be pretty anonymous despite his collection of digital toys. Similarly, David Miliband also invested in a digital camera, yet still pays for others to take pictures of him line dancing, and like Stephen Hepburn, he has uttered very few words of self condemnation or regret about his expense claims.  They are not alone, there are many others in the House of Commons, and even some local councillors, who, when faced with a barrage of criticism over expenses or allowances, zip their mouths firmly shut, close the ears, and hope that the madding crowd goes away. Their silence is appallingly loud, and we hear every word of it.

Our voices will not be silent come the time when Gordon Brown summons sufficient courage to call a general election.

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Written by curly

June 25, 2009 at 1:49 pm

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