David Miliband and his (modest) garden expenses
I'm not hugely engaged by the MPs' expenses controversy. No I dont think they should be on the fiddle, but we ought to realise that there may be all kinds of pressing reasons behind all this expenditure that the bare receipts conceal. (Though as the husband pointed out it was a bit rich to hear Harriet Harman defending them all by appeal to "rules" when she wanted to reduce Fred Goodwin's pension whether he had played by the 'rules' or not.)
Anyway aren't there more important things going on in the world that we OUGHT to be getting worked up about. (Like -- at the risk of a blatant plug for the daughter's enterprises -- the possibilities of elections in Sudan!)
All the same my eye was drawn this morning to the claim in The Independent that David Miliband "spent sums of up to £180 every three months on his garden prompting his gardener to question whether the work was necessary".
Apart from thinking that UP TO £180 was not an unreasonable amount to spend on a garden every three months (have these reporters looked at the prices in a garden centre recently?), I still did feel a bit shocked that the nation was depending on Miliband's gardener to protect 'tax-payers' money'.
It turned out that many papers had the same allegation -- The Daily Mail, for example, The Guardian and, of course, The Telegraph. They had it in almost exactly the same words too, suggesting that the others had simply copied it out from one, presumably The Telegraph (that's the recession for you -- if you have even fewer journalists, then even more mindless copying will go on just to fill up the pages).
But what did this gardener actually say? No, it wasn't a big confrontation at which Miliband asks for some rare orchids and the gardener rises to his full height and says he wont do that on the taxpayers' money. Many papers, to be fair, quoted the note (as it has been scrawled on the bottom of the receipt): "Please let me know if you would like pots making up at the front and back this year, given the relatively short time you'll be here and the labour-intensive nature."
Now, I have no idea what the rules for MPs' gardening expenses are and whether Miliband's pots would fall within them. But that little note doesn't sound much like a gardener's reprimand to his boss. It sounds much more like a good, careful, prudent and friendly relationship between Foreign Secretary and gardener.