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Let Paul Maynard's carelessness be a lesson to them all

The Blackpool North MP was investigated for 'improper use of a printer'. He's paid back what he owes, but with a general election imminent it shows 'survival mode' is being switched on.

May 21 2024, 16.45pm

Blackpool North’s long-serving MP Paul Maynard has become the latest Tory to be embroiled in scandal.

In another blow to the town - just months on from the lobbying scandal that led to former Conservative MP Scott Benton’s resignation - the Pensions Minister and former Government whip was found to have broken rules which forbid MPs from using taxpayer money for party political purposes.

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority found that Maynard breached rules by using his constituency office for party politics on dozens of occasions since 2014. It also found he used a printer - leased at a cost to the taxpayer of up to £1,677 per year - for overtly political materials including Tory leaflets.

The MP has "welcomed" the report and stated that "navigating the dual use of a constituency office" could be "inherently complicated". He said he has paid back the £1,367 for using the state-of-the-art printer.

While Maynard is not set to face any further repercussions, the case does the Tory brand no good. In addition to Benton’s indiscretions, other recent events include an MP who used party funds to pay off “bad people” and another who distributed colleague’s numbers to an unknown blackmailer

Maynard’s breach is arguably less egregious than some recent examples. Many voters might not know there are explicit rules about MPs separating their party political work from their constituency duties. And for those that do, misusing a printer may feel like a relatively minor transgression.

What is more significant is what it tells us about Maynard’s priorities. Recent polls have suggested that even those with previously bulletproof majorities of 20,000 votes or over may not be safe. Maynard - with a majority of just over 8,500 - is likely to feel uneasy, having witnessed Labour's Chris Webb win the neighbouring constituency of Blackpool South from the Tories with a huge 26 per cent swing.

With re-election prospects topping the list of Tory anxieties, Maynard’s overzealous printer use speaks to Conservative MPs entering a rather panicked period of campaigning. With the election no more than seven months away, many more will enter survival mode. Let Mr Maynard’s carelessness be a lesson to them all.

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