David Cameron feels legacy of expenses anger

David Cameron

Five years after the scandal of MPs' expenses first broke little may seem to have changed.

A prime minister defends his own when they come under fire, only to discover that the press, the public and some of his own MPs regard that as unacceptable.

A leader of the opposition declares that "he just doesn't get it".

Today Ed Miliband was able to echo the words David Cameron used to taunt Gordon Brown back in 2009.

Mr Cameron insists, though, that more has changed since then than people recognise. There is a new system of expenses and investigating abuses.


Under the new rules Maria Miller can claim nothing for a second home - her constituency is too close to London.

MPs who can get expenses for a second home cannot claim for a mortgage.

And a new independent organisation - not MPs - have the final say on punishments.

This was a so-called "legacy case", where there was a long, fierce legal dispute about what the old rules would have allowed.

Mrs Miller fought so hard to prove that she had not used taxpayers' money improperly to buy her parents a home that she - and it seems the prime minister - forgot what would be revealed along the way - the flow of tens of thousands of pounds of public money to subsidise politicians homes.

She has paid with her job. Mr Cameron is feeling a little of the fury many voters have felt for years.

That is the real legacy. The anger never went away. It was there waiting to erupt again.

Correction: Apologies. I reported earlier that under new expenses rules Maria Miller could not claim for a second home.

The rules were, indeed, changed to stop many MPs living near to London from claiming for second homes.

They now state that anyone living closer than 20 miles from the Commons or less than a 60 minute door to door journey by train cannot claim.

However, Maria Miller's constituency - Basingstoke - just falls outside this limit. Her train journey would be 51 minutes station to station.

As it happens, she made no claims for a second home for a while but has claimed rent - although not mortgage payments as this is not allowed under the new rules.

Any dispute about these payments would be dealt with by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority - IPSA - and not by a committee of MPs.