Chancellor Alistair Darling is to repay about £700 of expenses following allegations about his allowances, which is curious given the statement his spokesman made this morning.
In July 2007, 10 days after he became Chancellor, Mr Darling submitted a £1,004 claim for a service charge on his south London flat. The service charge covered the six-month period from July 2007 to December 2007. Mr Darling then moved into Downing Street and claimed second home allowances for his grace-and-favour apartments, which the Telegraph said meant that costs relating to two of the Chancellor's homes were being met by the taxpayer at the same time, in contravention of parliamentary rules.
A spokesman for Mr Darling denied the allegation this morning, saying "The allegation of double claiming is simply untrue. He paid the bills due for his flat until he moved out in September 2007 after which he made no further claims for it.", which in hindsight tells us all we need to know about spin.
Gordon Brown had earlier said he did not think the claim had "substance", but it palpably is true. The claim may have been submitted in July, but the expense related to service charges from July to December. Try feigning ignorance of the accruals basis of taxation to the tax man and see what happens.
The Daily Telegraph says he claimed for costs on a flat in south London while claiming allowances on his grace-and-favour home in Downing Street.
Well then surprise, surprise when later this morning, Mr Darling said it was "untrue" he had claimed for two properties at once but would repay the flat's service charges for September to December 2007.
Excuse me, but if he wasn't in the wrong, why was he repaying the expenses claim? Does he now think that we will all pay taxes that we don't really owe, but you know every little helps in these difficult times? Of course not, Darling was caught bang to rights on a petty matter, but as is the way with modern politicians, instead of fessing up and apologising, he tries to act the martyr and make political capital.
And the funny thing is that no sooner had the prime minister got back to his office from his trip to the BBC to cover for his chancellor, than he heard that the man next door had taken out his chequebook and posted one back to the Fees Office, and issued an unreserved apology for what he said he didn't do.