More on Mr Hogg later.
ConHome is also hearing of serious concerns from within the Totnes Association regarding the behaviour of Anthony Steen MP. Members are "unhappy" I hear and moving towards deselection. The Western Morning News noted his imaginative use of expenses yesterday:
The Totnes MP told the Western Morning News that no-one in the Commons "knew what the rules were" so he took the decision to claim for maintenance and gardening work and not mortgage costs.
Mr Steen ran up a bill of thousands of pounds on work which included guarding shrubs from rabbits, inspecting trees, redecorating, moving boulders, fencing off fields, overhauling a private sewage system and sowing grass seed.
Last night, he said he "got it wrong" and was prepared to pay back to the taxpayer around 10 per cent of the £87,729 he claimed for the upkeep of the house, which the Daily Telegraph estimated was now worth around £1.5 million."
The Telegraph has published a full list of Tory MPs under investigation.
3.15pm: Douglas Hogg MP's statement (from The Times): "I entirely understand the public anger that has erupted over expenses. The current system is deeply flawed; we parliamentarians have got it wrong and I apologise for that failure which is both collective and personal. In view of David Cameron’s campaign for an early election - which I strongly support - I have decided that now is the time to tell the Sleaford and North Hykeham Association that I will not be standing in the coming election. This will give them time to select a new candidate to best represent local and national interests.”
4pm: Interesting postscript from ConHome regular Graham Smith and member of Douglas Hogg's Association:
"Senior officers of Sleaford and North Hykeham Conservative Association apparently met with Rt Hon Douglas Hogg QC MP on the afternoon of 14 May 2009, following which they issued a statement of complete support for their MP.
At Douglas Hogg's instigation, the officers called an Executive Council meeting for this coming Saturday, so that Douglas could make a short speech and answer questions. This was a positive action.
I understand that George Clark, Association Chairman, intended to move a motion of support for Douglas at the close of that meeting (although another source informs me that the Conservative Agent tried desperately hard to dissuade him from such a course of action).
In any event, that meeting of the Association's Executive Council has now been cancelled.
Whilst there is no doubt in my mind that Douglas has suffered unfairly at the hands of a baying press, the situation was not helped by senior Association officers making such a fullsome statement of support on 14 May 2009. The correct course of action at that time would surely have been to offer local members the opportunity to hear and reflect on the facts of the matter, in order to reach a considered and informed judgment?
In my view, issuing the press release and calling for a motion of support within such a short timescale (and at a time when they should instead have been listening to the concerns of local people) was a serious error of judgment by the Association's senior officers. Local members will know this is not the first occasion on which the Association's current Chairman has come into conflict with the Conservative Agent and Senior Councillors.
Had Saturday's meeting not been cancelled, I was minded to call for the Association's Chairman, Deputy Chairman and Treasurer to resign.
Indeed, I still think that should happen in order that we may proceed with selecting a new candidate by way of the open primary process. Having been on the receiving end of misleading literature published by another political party, the thought of going into a General Election campaign with the same senior officers at the helm terrifies me."