Further to the item on Friday about the role of councillors in deselecting MPs engaged in expenses abuse I have emailed all the Conservative councillors in his Bracknell constituency. There are 43 of them so far as I can tell – most of them on Bracknell Forest District Council but also six on Wokingham Council. So far only five have responded – all supportive of Mr MacKay and I publish their reasons below. A sixth, Cllr Mary Ballin, has already made clear her support in the local press.
While not terribly conclusive it does lead me to doubt how much appetite there is for deselections. After all this is probably the worst example among Tory MPs. Mr MacKay, and his Tory MPwife Julie Kirkbdide, had two homes. He designated their Westminster flat as his second home and used the Additional Costs Allowance to pay for it. She designated their other home as the second home and used her Additional Costs Allowance to pay for that. A completely outrageous scam. Unacceptable most of us would think. Unacceptable enough to gather a petition of 50 members to convene a Special General Meeting to propose deselection – which is, to use a familiar phrase, allowed under the rules.
But the councillors who have emailed me so far don't believe Mr MacKay has behaved in an unacceptable manner. I am grateful to them for taking the trouble to comment. Of course loyalty to a friend under fire is an admirable instinct. The problem is when it becomes misplaced because the misconduct is sufficiently serious for the right to loyalty to have been forfeited, Mr MacKay will be heartened by the powerful advocates on his side, which is rather more than deserves.
Anyway. here are their responses. First from Cllr John Harrison:
I am currently a constituent of Andrew MacKay but due to boundary changes, Binfield and Warfield wards will not be in the Bracknell constituency at the next election so some of us are already working with Adam Afriyie.
First point to make is that as you know all councillors' expenses totals are published and the detail is available for inspection to the public, press and political opponents. If this had been applied to MPs then I am sure some MPs would have been more restrained in their claims.
I would personally like to see MPs paid a higher salary and expenses governed by exactly the same rules that apply to the rest of us. That way they would have to pay the same tax rates that they impose on us.
This story reminiscent of John Major's ill-fated back to basics campaign. As soon as David Cameron laid down a "reasonableness" test for expenses which was applied to expenses claimed under a system which an ordinary member of the public would not regard as reasonable, it was bound to catch out members who had claimed within the rules and cause embarrassment to the party.
There is no doubt that Andrew MacKay claimed within the rules for second home allowance and so did Julie Kirkbride. Had they both been single, or married to other people there would have been two claims for allowance and no quibbles about their claims. It seems to me that they are being pilloried as a result of being married to each other and both being MPs.
Unlike some MPs, who have made fraudulent claims, Andrew has made a claim which was within the rules and was checked out with the Fees Office. He is an excellent MP and should stay.
Cllr Dale Birch says:
Andrew Mackay is an excellent constituency MP who is hard working, diligent and highly regarded locally. He has served this community admirably for 26 years. He has my full support.
Cllr Alvin Finch says:
I see no reason why Andrew should resign as an MP. I can likewise see no need for him to be deselected. So far the press has been taking a negative view of Andrews’s situation within the party. The positive is that the Conservative party is taking a stand on this issue. Andrew (in common with others) worked within the agreed system. A system that desperately needs changing.
This (Labour) administration has brought in rules for Councillors that they should have also applied to themselves. It is now very difficult to get someone to stand for elections in a Town or Parish, due to the amount of information that they have to disclose. Parish councillors must now declare the financial interests of themselves, their grandchildren and even their nephew's spouses. Even gifts of £25 must be declared. The sooner we can get an independent set of rules for MPs the better. The press should be directing people back on the wider issues. Brown has already ruined our economy and is still pressing ahead with some pretty appalling legislation.
Andrew is very well regarded locally by all. He well respected even by those of other political persuasions. When I have been out canvassing with Andrew he is always greeted by constituents that he has helped. I certainly have no problem with Andrew whatsoever.
Cllr Alan Ward says:
I know that you have received a reply from Councillor Dale Birch the contents of which I agree with and will not repeat here. You mention that I am on record as supporting Andrew MacKay and that is indeed the case. I do not condone what has happened and although Andrew has apologised I would not normally think that this would be sufficient in a case like this. However, I judge the man over a period of 27 years in which he has been an MP of exceptional calibre for this constituency and for our Borough. Never over all those years have I known him to fail to respond to requests to help and promote individuals and groups within our Borough. One particular group is the Early Years sector. Since this sector was identified some 12 years ago he has be indefatigable in his support for them. He has attended nursery and pre-school groups and promoted their work and encouraged their workforce. He has on several occasions opened their conferences and one of the outcomes of this has been a really confident sector who feel appreciated and recognised. There are no schools within the constituency that he has not visited, most of them on many occasions and not just on ceremonial occasions but during the ordinary school day and he has encouraged their staff and raised morale. He has a deep knowledge of the Borough, its citizens and their problems. I remember Andrew astonishing one head teacher when, after she had commented on a small boy who had acted in a strange way in one of the classrooms, he not only knew of the child but knew the mother and all the details of a complex and troubled household. In recent years he has been supportive of the work being done in the after school clubs and the breakfast clubs in promoting the extended school's agenda.
Andrew MacKay has lived and breathed Bracknell over these many years. He does not just come down here for ceremonial occasions or just to meet the party faithful but continuously knocks on doors so that we can confidently say that there is no street that he has not visited and in the case of my ward every street has been visited many times over. I have quoted the early years sector and schools sector because that is the area for which I was responsible for some years.
I know however that in other areas such as in care of the elderly and in the health of local people he has also been intimately involved. The Old People's Day Centre in my own ward has been visited by Andrew many times and all our users know him well. I travel quite a lot around the country working with other councils and councillors on behalf of the IDeA. When I talk to them about their MPs they rarely have such positive tales to tell. Some see them rarely, if at all, and some take little or no interest in any of the activities I have mentioned above. One MP I spoke to did not even know there was an Early Years sector!! Andrew, in short, has shown great loyalty to us and our people over many years and as a result I am now proud to support him in this difficult time.
Cllr Pauline Helliar-Symons says:
Of course Andrew Mackay should continue to be our MP. The criterion for re-selection must be the effectiveness of the person as a Constituency MP, and his contribution at Westminster, and on both counts Andrew scores 100%. He is so helpful to all the constituents who contact him, and this is many thousands in the course of a year. He follows up every case, whether cutting through NHS deadlocks and enabling people to get much needed treatment and operations, or whether dealing with issues relating to local councils. He liaises with me, as a Borough councillor, very closely, copying me in on every piece of correspondence he has with any resident of my ward, and working with me to address the issues raised; in return, any issues I have raised with him where my residents need help from central government are always dealt with promptly and thoroughly. He has never ignored any request for help or information. At our Council we have annual elections, and Andrew canvasses several times with every candidate every time – but not only that: he does walkabouts with us in every ward several times during the year as well.
It is astonishing, as you walk round any street or town centre with Andrew, how many people know him and hail him with real warmth and pleasure because he has helped them or a member of their family at some time, and equally astonishing how many people he knows personally and by name, remembering every detail of any issue they may have written to him about. We have a canvassing slogan, that is as true now as it was years ago – "Everyone knows someone who has been helped by Andrew". He would bend over backwards to help those same people who are criticising him if they were in need – and probably has done in the past. He also keeps all of us, councillors and Party members, fully informed of national developments, and consults us for our views on the kind of stance the Party should take. It would be a foolish Constituency who failed to re-select an MP like that. He is an incredibly hard worker and we are lucky to have him.
> Last Thursday a ConservativeHome poll of Tory members found that two-thirds wanted Andrew MacKay to cease to be a Conservative MP.