Caroline Spelman, the senior Tory appointed by David Cameron to clean up the Tory Party, has been found out this morning for paying her nanny from parliamentary expenses.
Now Caroline Spelman's response has been to claim that her nanny did six hours work a day for her on constituency business, and that she was paid "in kind" for her duties as a nanny. This raises three questions.
1) If the nanny was employed in working hours to be a secretary, who was looking after the child during these hours ? It suggests, if Ms Spelman is right, that the nanny only worked as a nanny in the evenings, in which case, why employ a nanny ? This argument seems very odd.
2) Should expenses be used in this way to top up a person's salary when they are only being paid "in kind" for their real job. Surely during this period Ms Spelman should have been paying her salary from herself, not letting us top it up.
3) Are we really to believe that the person best placed to do the job of a secretary to an MP is a nanny ? I don't mean to offend any nannies, but surely an experienced secretary, PA or office manager is the person besat placed to do this job.
Of course these points are irrelevent when you hear that nanny's side of the story. According to her she occasionally answered the phone and posted letters. I have to ask Ms Spelman, if she thinks this amounts to six hours work a day, which is what she is claiming, then I think she lives on a different planet from us ordinary mortals.
The question now for David Cameron is what does he do now. After all, it was his decision to put Ms Spelman in her role to clear up the mess over expenses and leaving her in place would show that the Tories don't really are about the issue. Cameron has been quick to disown and condemn his MEPs who had expenses fiddles exposed this week, but the Tories have problems between their MEPs and their leadership in the UK anyway, so this was a good opportunity for Cameron to show them who was boss.
All in all, it does rather show the Tories up in the wake of Derek Conway, the two MEPs and now Ms Spelman, to be little different from those kicked out in 1997. Tory sleaze is a disease not easily got rid of by a dose of opposition.