Is Lembit Opik guilty of fraud?
It transpires that Lembit Opik put in a claim for a court fine. Yes, the taxpayer footed the bill for an MP's crime or misdemeanour, which happened in this case to be the non-payment of council tax. Mr Opik's mitigation is that he had suffered a family bereavement, and was not thinking straight: he claimed 'in good faith'. Yet it occurs to Cranmer that court summonses are preceded by many months of reminders and increasingly sternly-worded letters, which, presumably, Mr Opik chose to ignore. He is asked why this does not constitute 'fraud'. It is pointed out to him that ordinary members of the public are not permitted simply to pay back monies obtained by deception - even those claimed 'in good faith'.
But he attempts to divert the conversation to the Telegraph's shady style of investigative journalism and his own proposed solutions for reform. He fails miserably as it is further disclosed that he attempted to purchase a £2,500 television for his London flat. When this was refused, he purchased a perfectly good one for £700 at the taxpayers' expense. He then moved his £2,500 television to his main home in his constituency, presumably because the taxpayer did not buy it. Which begs the question, if a £700 television would have done the job, why did he attempt to fleece the taxpayer of an additional £1,800?
Come on, Mr Clegg. Excessive claims for rent, mortgage interest, household goods or property maintenance are one thing. And David Cameron is making all of his MPs refund the money to the taxpayer. But an MP who claims a court fine?
Could you please explain why His Grace has had to pay the price for Mr Opik's sin?