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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Claudia Cockerell and Ethan Croft

From Glasto tickets to designer handbags: All the freebees MPs got last year

MPs used to have a riotous time spending taxpayer money on duck houses, moats, trouser presses, jacuzzis and other essentials. But when the expenses scandal hit they reluctantly turned to a more ascetic existence. Nowadays the only way for MPs to get their kicks is through freebees, which they have to declare on their register of interests. We went through the register with a fine toothed comb and present you with a concise guide to who's getting what perks.

Liz Truss

Liz Truss used the VIP suite at Heathrow eleven times in 2023 (PA)

Short-serving former Prime Minister Liz Truss hasn’t let her political humiliation get in the way of the high life. Since leaving Number 10, Truss has been jet-setting across the world and taking freebees from airports. She has used the VIP Windsor suite at Heathrow Airport no less than eleven times and the corresponding Sussex suite at Gatwick on four occasions. A stay in Heathrow’s Windsor suite would set mere mortals back by £1,800 while a stop off in Gatwick’s Sussex suite costs £1,380. But the airports have extended this courtesy to Truss for free.

Nadhim Zahawi 

Nadhim Zahawi and Lana Del Rey (PA)

Nadhim Zahawi clearly has a thing for girls called Lana. To quell his summertime sadness, he nabbed four hospitality tickets to Lana Del Rey’s very sold out show in Hyde Park last July, valued at over £1,000. Perhaps he brought his wife, Lana, along. For some reason we’re struggling to imagine Zahawi swaying along with all the flower-crowned superfans, singing Video Games. But correct us if you have video evidence.

Rachel Reeves

Rachel Reeves launching a new Labour poster (PA)

“Rishi Sunak doesn’t understand what a cost of living crisis feels like,” said Rachel Reeves on X last week. Perhaps Sunak's penchant for short haul helicopter rides and Prada loafers make him seem out of touch. But really, what does Reeves know? After she gave a talk at a Founders Forum business event in June, she received an Anya Hindmarch designer handbag stuffed with cosmetics as a present, worth a cool £1,250. Unlike Sunak, she’s had the nous not to debut her new bag at, say, a construction site in Teesside.

Jess Phillips

Jess Phillips (PA)

The eccentric MP for Birmingham Yardley has what was once called “a hinterland”, in Denis Healey’s phrase. That’s to say she has a variety of outside interests and projects beyond her political work: books, speaking engagements, panel shows. She also enjoys weightlifting tournaments. According to her register of interests, Phillips accepted four tickets to a Giant Live Strongman event at the Royal Albert Hall.

Oliver Dowden

Oliver Dowden (AFP / PA)

One of Rishi Sunak’s closest political allies, Oliver Dowden has used his position as deputy prime minister, and before that as culture secretary, to indulge his passion for opera. His register is chock full of freebees from the Royal Opera House and Glyndebourne Festival of opera in East Sussex.  

Thangam Debbonaire

Madonna and Thangam Debbonaire (John Shearer / Getty Images)

Labour MP and shadow culture secretary Thangam Debbonaire is such a Madonna fan that she bagged a single ticket to see the Queen of Pop in October last year. Had she bought it from a box office, the ticket would have set Debbonaire back £345. Talk about perks of the job.

Ed Davey and seven Labour MPs

Glastonbury Festival (PA)

Ed Davey snapped up two hospitality tickets to Glastonbury last year, worth nearly £2,500. We wonder if the Lib Dem leader crossed paths with any of the seven Labour MPs who also got free tickets: Ed Miliband, Louise Haigh, Kevin Brennan, Mark Tami, Darren Jones, Alex Sobel, and Clive Lewis. To be fair, Miliband, Lewis and Jones were there for speaking events – the others were free to cut shapes in Shangri-La all weekend.

Michael Gove

Michael Gove (Getty / PA)

Michael Gove received an early Christmas present in December: a £3,000 donation from a dentist in his Surrey Heath constituency, which will be paid in £250 monthly instalments. Is The Dental Centre in Bracknell a die hard Tory institution or is Gove freshening up his pearly whites? He’s always been a closed-mouth smiler, but let's see if the Levelling Up secretary debuts a new toothy grin this year.

Paul Scully

Billy Joel (Getty Images)

Paul Scully had a grand old time when he was Minister for Tech and the Digital Economy, and gambling fell under his remit. He was lavished with tickets to Ascot, Epsom Races, the FA Cup, the Six Nations, and Wimbledon. Scully also accepted tickets for the BRIT awards and a Billy Joel concert, courtesy of the Betting and Gaming council. We notice his replacement, Saqib Bhatti, hasn't yet indulged in the perks of the job.

Bridget Phillipson

Shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson said there is a ‘broken relationship between schools and families’ (James Manning/PA) (PA Wire)

Labour's shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson, who is tipped as a potential future Labour leader, was just 10 when Park Life came out. But there are certain bands that never leave you. Perhaps in a rush of nostalgia, last year she bagged two Royal Box tickets to see Blur play their hits at Wembley. They would have cost a whopping £500 on the open market.

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