A former Labour MP who defected to the Liberal Democrats has complained of the “terrifying” prospect of missing out on a £22,000 taxpayer-funded golden goodbye if she loses at next month’s general election.
Angela Smith, who was a Labour MP for 14 years until she quit the party earlier this year, claimed she is being “discriminated against” by Parliament’s expenses authorities.
She is currently the MP for the Penistone and Stocksbridge constituency but is vacating the seat to instead stand for the Liberal Democrats in Altrincham and Sale West on Dec. 12.
In a letter to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority — the watchdog for MPs’ expenses — Smith expressed her “horror” at realising that her decision to stand as a Lib Dem in a different constituency means she is no longer eligible for the winding-up payment received by MPs who lose their seats in an election.
IPSA rules state that an MP who loses their seat is entitled to a taxpayer-funded parachute payment worth two months’ salary, net of tax and National Insurance contributions.
But, Smith said in her letter to IPSA last week, her decision to stand in a different constituency — a move known in Westminster as a “chicken run” — meant she would now not receive the money if she loses. She said this amounted to her being “discriminated against”.
“I cannot underestimate my horror in finding in the latest guidance these payments are only available if you stand in the same ‘seat’,” Smith wrote, adding: “The implications of this are terrifying.”
She went on: “As you can imagine being an MP for a considerable amount of time these payments provided some comfort in the event of losing on election day.”
“Given I had no option but to move to another party and then no option but to move to a vacant candidacy, I honestly consider I am being discriminated against,” Smith claimed, arguing that she had no choice but to run in a different seat because the Liberal Democrats had already selected a candidate in Penistone. Smith’s decision to leave Labour and join the Lib Dems was her own.
She continued: “To be honest it is terrifying me and cannot say loud enough that I feel aggrieved that after serving our country for last 14 1/2 years I could lose everything because of this rule that if implemented would cost me around £22,000 in loss of Office Payment and 2 months net pay.”
Smith hit the headlines in February when she was forced to apologise for describing people from black, Asian, and minority ethnic backgrounds as having a “funny tinge”.
She was also embroiled in the expenses scandal back in 2009, when it was revealed she had charged the taxpayer for four beds in her one-bedroom London flat.
Angela Smith has been contacted for comment.