The Star reports this morning that Nick Clegg’s Ecclesall constituency home is up for sale. In the run up to the election, the paper notes, Mr Clegg told Andrew Neil that any profit made from the sale of his home “will go straight back to the taxpayer.”
Several months prior to the Andrew Neil interview, I spoke with Mr Clegg on this subject at a Lib Dem event at the University of Sheffield. This was shortly after he had agreed to pay back £910 of his £3900 gardening expenses claim, and he said a little more about his constituency home:
As you know, Sir Thomas Legg, who has conducted this retrospective review of MPs expenses, has retrospectively applied a number of rules of thumb, if you like, which he felt should have been in place when MPs made their claims. He has come up with a rule which says that…I forget the limit. He has come up with an annual limit of what he thinks MPs should have paid on maintaining their gardens and their properties. And in hindsight then calculated how much should have been spent for each MP. I could have quibbled about that. A lot of MPs are. I could have said I don’t understand the logic of retrospective rules. I could have argued that as it happens the home that I have here, in Ecclesall, on Knowle Lane was in a complete derelict state, the garden was an eyesore. My view of the money that I use, your money, taxpayers money doing my job is very, very simple. The home that I occupy, subsidised by the taxpayer is not my home. It’s on loan to me from you, the taxpayer. That’s why I think I’m pretty much unique in British politics in saying when I sell that property, any net gain goes back to you, the taxpayer. It’s not my money.
And that’s always the attitude, and that’s why I thought it was right for me to keep the garden in basic good nick. It was an eyesore for the neighbours otherwise. Sir Thomas Legg thought otherwise, but the last thing people want is politicians quibbling about this kind of thing. So I payed the money back. That’s the story and that’s the most candid and honest answer I can give to you on that.
Neither the estate agent, nor asking price has been revealed.
Mr Clegg has also said that he believes it is time to stop MPs from buying and selling property altogether, perhaps suggesting that he will take a rental property in his constituency after the sale of his home.
I assume Mr Clegg will shortly be implementing a procedure to return the gain on the sale of his property to the taxpayer, although how he intends to do this remains to be seen. If he keeps his word, it will set an interesting precedent, and perhaps rescue his credibility as a man at the forefront of “the new politics”.