Do as I say, not as I do
August 2009: Tory Leader of Essex County Council, Lord Hanningfield, calls for the government to give his council the power to set rates and eligbility criteria for benefits for unemployed people, because "the benefits system provides a viable alternative lifestyle for too many of our residents".
January 2010: Tory shadow minister Philip Hammond confirms that his party are in discussions with local councils about experimenting with Hanningfield's proposal.
February 2010: Hanningfield resigns as leader of Essex County Council after being charged with "dishonestly" submitting claims "for expenses to which he knew he was not entitled".
Between 2001 and 2009, Hanningfield claimed £99,970 in 'overnight subsistence' and £49,955 for meals and 'incidental' travel from the House of Lords, as well as £59,110 in just one year from Essex County Council, and £62,000 on a 'fact-finding' business-class trip to the US.
I fully concede that Hanningfield is an expert in how state handouts can end up funding a viable, indeed lavish, alternative lifestyle. I can't help but wonder, though, whether the Tories might want to reconsider whether they do actually want to experiment with ideas on reforming the benefits system which came from someone who has been charged under the Theft Act.