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Philip Hollobone, who was elected as Conservative MP for Kettering in 2005 at his second attempt, revels in being the country’s "cheapest MP" and is the subject of a profile published on the BBC website today.

Last year his claim of less than £45,000 on taxpayer-funded allowances amounted to more than £90,000 less than the average MP – and more than £140,000 less than the highest.

He does this by not employing any staff, which generally accounts for the lion’s share of the allowances used by his colleagues.

He says:

"I don’t need staff. It’s public money that you’re spending. It helps to economise where I can by doing my own case work. At the same time I’m minimising the risk of getting out of touch, and I can respond directly to constituents’ concerns.

"I haven’t called for other MPs to do the same as me, but the arrangement suits me. I think people are surprised by my arrangement. If I were a frontbencher I don’t think I could do it, but it’s do-able for a backbench MP."

Whilst the principled stance he takes may be an honourable one – and I have never heard a complaint about his effectiveness as a constituency MP – I can’t help but think that it is not healthy for him.

His casework file cannot be anything like the size of that which a number of MPs I know have to deal with, since in some constituencies he would find a full-time job simply in dealing with that.

But what does he do when he goes on his summer holiday? It’s important in any line of work to be able to switch off and recharge one’s batteries, yet he must either have to keep on top of work while away or face a huge backlog of letters, emails etc when he returns.

No Conservative would disagree that taxpayer value for money is important, but in the case of an MP, there is definitely an argument that spending money on office staff to organise what is inevitably a busy and hectic life actually makes that MP an even more effective advocate in the long run.

Jonathan Isaby

42 comments for: Britain’s cheapest MP is a Tory – but how does he do it and is it healthy?

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