OPINION: MEPs are overpaid, overweight, over there

MEPs. What do they actually do? Most people on the street would be hard-pressed to know what their euro-Johnny is up to.

One suspects it is a quick glass of Billecart-Salmon Blanc at St Pancras, then a hop onto the Eurostar to Brussels.

It has emerged, because of David Cameron's request for transparency, that some of the Tory MEPs are taking severe liberties. Where to start? Den Dover - comedy name, lack of shame - paid £760,000 in staff allowances to a family firm.

Sajjad Karim admitted paying his wife £26,000 a year as an office assistant while she was a primary school teacher. John Purvis funnelled up to £1m, meant to pay staff, into his own firm.

This will, of course, be tough for Cameron, but Labour is not in a good position either - it has to somehow straddle a position of being disgusted by Tory MEP financial gluttony, all too aware that its own Brussels brigade has been just as bad, if not worse.

We learn that some Tory MEPs are angry that disclosures about their use of expenses have been made possible because Cameron ordered the publication of more information than either Labour or the Lib Dems have asked of their MEPs.

This is staggering: the fraudsters who don't like being investigated.

Remember when the expenses row first erupted earlier this year? It was Tory MPs such as Ben Wallace and Nadine Dorries who exposed every penny they had spent. Many MPs are not so honest and claim for a Generation Game list of household trinkets.

One of my favourite expense hauls was from Liberal Democrat Paul Keetch. He claimed for a Nigella Lawson style retro food mixer (in cherry red, £249), three large bottle stoppers and a pudding basin. Although, in terms of jaw-dropping monetary piss-takes, this is not a vast sum. It showed Keetch's theory of 'I want it, I'll have it, and the taxpayer will foot the bill'.

Cameron's skill in turning this situation around will be a test of his ability. The latest polls today show his Conservative Party is streets ahead. The Tory leader has ordered Hugh Thomas, the Conservatives' head of compliance, over to Brussels to scrutinise MEPs' expenses.

Thomas should track some of them down at Comme Chez Soi off Avenue de Stalingrad. Overpaid, overweight, over there.

Cameron should then use this opportunity to weed out the ferrets and sack them.

Tara Hamilton-Miller is a political adviser and was formerly part of the press team at Conservative Party HQ

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