Clare Brown and the RM110 million expenses scandal that rocked British parliament

“In Malaysia, Gordon would have been investigated by the Parliamentary Accounts Committee (PAC), the Royal Malaysian Police (PDRM), MACC, the Attorney General’s chambers and Bank Negara (BNM) just the way Dato’ Seri Najib Tun Razak was. Yet, he got off scot free in the UK despite paying members of his immediate family with hard-earned taxpayer-money just to clean his Westminster flat!”


On the 4th of November 2009, at 6.48 GMT, Sean Noonan of the Stratfor Global Intelligence team sent an email concerning cuts in expenses that were imposed upon British lawmakers. In the email, Noonan referred to a report that spoke of questionable claims made by British Members of Parliament (MPs), leaked to The Telegraph by an unidentified government official.

Noonan was referring to the United Kingdom (UK) Parliamentary Expenses Scandal (PES), a major blow to the premiership of Gordon Brown that violently rocked the British House of Commons. In May 2009, Gordon came under intense scrutiny both by the media and the British parliament following revelations that he used taxpayers’ money to pay his wife (Sarah Brown), brother (Andrew Brown) and sister in-law (Clare Rewcastle Brown) to manage his housekeeping.

Noonan’s mail came months after his colleague, Lauren Goodrich, pointed out in another email that the crisis had cost Gordon at the polls and was bound to bring his premiership to an end. And she was right – amid public outrage over the scandal and the lack of commitment towards criminal prosecutions (which did eventually take place in 2010), support for Gordon’s Labour party took its worst beating ever in a century during the local elections held on the 4th of June 2009 for all of UK’s 27 County Councils.

On the 8th of May that year, The Telegraph shocked the nation when it spread the entire list of MPs and their expenses claims in print (see also screenshot below). The findings by the British daily – which, for the record, were legit and never challenged by Gordon – included details of a house swap arrangement that allowed the then premier to transfer his claims under the Additional Costs Allowance (ACA).

According to The Telegraph’s Rosa Prince and Holly Watt (see also screenshot below), Gordon made the transfer on the 17th of September 2006, just 10 days after his predecessor, Tony Blair, announced that he would resign as Prime Minister the following year. Back then, Gordon was the Chancellor of Exchequer, a position equivalent to the post of Finance Minister in Malaysia.


The daily wrote:

“Until then, Mr Brown had declared a flat in Westminster as his second home for the purposes of his allowances, despite having the use of a taxpayer-funded apartment in Downing Street. 

It was there that he and his wife, Sarah, paid his brother, Andrew, a high-flying executive, £241.30 a month for “cleaning services”. The payments later increased to £262.

Among the items Gordon was reim­­bursed for were as follows:

1. lightbulbs worth £15 and a £265 John Lewis vacuum cleaner.

2. the expense of installing a £9,000 Ikea kitchen at the Westminster flat. The claims were spread to cover two financial years, allowing Gordon to remain within the annual ACA budget of just over £21,000.

3. the expense of hiring a cleaner at a rate of £10.50 an hour

4. the expense of hiring a gardener at a rate of nearly £1,500 a year to maintain the garden overlooking the Firth of Forth.

5. expenses related to calling in Rentokill to deal with an infestation of mice at the property, at a cost to the taxpayer of £352.

Some of the other claims Gordon regularly submitted included those for food, his Sky TV subscription, dry cleaning and newspaper bills. Initially, the former premier attempted to go on the offensive by pretending not to know what happened. But when news of Andrew and Ms. Rewcastle’s involvement went to print, he conceded ‘defeat’ and issued a public apology on behalf of “all politicians” involved over what happened.

Yes, all politicians.

On 18th of June 2009, the details of MP-claims for the period 2004 to 2008 were published on the official Parliament website. The list included details of voluntary repayments linked to fraudulent claims that may have been worth over five million British pounds! That’s equivalent to £20 million by today’s standards, or more than RM110 million worth of taxpayer money that just went down the drain in meaningless claims.

But none of that broke the headlines as much as Gordon’s house swap arrangement and the involvement of Andrew and Ms. Rewcastle did. In 2011, a year after setting up Sarawak Report, Ms. Rewcastle insisted that Gordon’s arrangement with the cleaner was “later judged to be wholly legitimate.” But that is a horrible lie.

The truth is, Andrew had undertaken to sue a British newspaper over claims that he “pocketed improper payments” made by Gordon on expenses. His solicitor, Chris Scott, told Mr Justice Eady at the High Court that the prominent article, which also appeared online, was headed “Zero tolerance for scum who exploit expenses”

Read between the lines, and you will see that the claim made by Scotland on Sunday was in fact libellous, as it wrongly accused Andrew of receiving corrupt payments under the guise of reimbursement for cleaning services. But that is not the issue the British House of Commons and the public at large had with Gordon or Andrew.

The House was more concerned that Gordon had abused his power by paying his own family members using taxpayer money. The public was furious that the former premier refused to step down and withheld a public inquiry into the matter. What infuriated them most was that, apart from an apology, Gordon went about business as usual without pressing for a probe by national law enforcement agencies into the matter.

“My poor husband Andrew,” recalled Ms. Rewcastle, “was the face on the front page on the first day of the expenses scandal, which was pretty damn unfair.” But the House of Commons did not share her view. Several of its MPs viewed Gordon’s actions as the deliberate act of criminal malfeasance and abuse of position by a public official to receive gratification.

In Malaysia, Gordon would have been investigated by the Parliamentary Accounts Committee (PAC), the Royal Malaysian Police (PDRM), MACC, the Attorney General’s chambers and Bank Negara (BNM) just the way Dato’ Seri Najib Tun Razak was. Yet, he got off scot free in the UK despite paying members of his immediate family with hard-earned taxpayer-money just to clean his Westminster flat!

Did Ms. Rewcastle not realise this?

Where was her conscience when she accused Najib of stealing money from 1MDB to enrich his family? What happened to the truckloads of “smoking gun evidences” she published via Sarawak Report that she claimed “would hold in any court of law, anywhere in the world?” On the 30th of August 2017, she failed to offer even a shred of it despite being given months by a London Court to do so. So how can anyone trust whatever she says anymore?

Ironically, she never questioned her brother in-law over his failure to initiate a Special Task Force of sorts into the British expenses scandal. If she’s so hell bent on defending truth and justice, why has she yet to write a piece questioning Gordon’s ethics and moral scruples over the way he handled the expenses cock-up? The last I checked, our Prime Minister even went so far as to allow members of the Malaysian opposition to investigate 1MDB via the PAC.

Did Gordon do that?

And yet, Ms. Rewcastle told reporters that the negative publicity her husband and Gordon received was “pretty damn unfair.” Yes, she finds it “pretty damn unfair” that her own husband and brother in-law were implicated of fraud, but calls TTF “a propaganda blog” when I speak the same of my Prime Minister.

Now do you see what pisses me off?

Note: Title was corrected. Figure involved is more than RM110 million, not RM11 million



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