The embarrassment continues to pile up for Brexiteer MP Andrew Bridgen, who was recently evicted from the restored 18th-century cottage he shared with his second wife, Nevena, a Serbian blogger, in the Leicestershire village of Coleorton.
Bridgen had been a vociferous defender of Alex Belfield, the former BBC local radio DJ who was jailed for five and a half years last week for four stalking charges against broadcasters including Jeremy Vine – who labelled Belfield “the Jimmy Savile of trolling” during his trial.
In March 2021 Bridgen wrote to the then-home secretary Priti Patel that Belfield had told him he was being victimised by the BBC, after launching a YouTube channel in which he highlighted what he claimed were scandals involving the corporation. A long-time Beeb basher, Bridgen wrote: “On the basis of this account, the actions of Nottingham police in these matters seems to me to be completely disproportionate, and would appear to many to have all the hallmarks of a BBC-inspired witch-hunt”.
Two months later, he tweeted: “The BBC has huge power and authority without adequate accountability, which led to many scandals including Jimmy Savile, Martin Bashir and their ongoing attacks on Alex Belfield, we’re all forced under threat of criminal prosecution to pay for this.”
Bridgen was kicked out of his home last month and ordered to pay £800,000 after a judge ruled he had lied under oath and behaved in an “abusive”, “arrogant” and “aggressive” way during a long legal battle against family firm AB Produce, now run by his estranged younger brother, Paul.
He is said to be appealing against the decision, but could yet be ordered to pay £244,000 in rent arrears on the £1.5m cottage in Leicestershire, which boasts a sauna, swimming pool and 5.5 acres of land, where he had also refused to pay bills for water and electricity on the property.
That notwithstanding, I can disclose that the MP has been reimbursed by as much as £2,578 a month in accommodation rent under the members’ expenses scheme. The latest data shows that he has received more than £156,000 for rented accommodation since 2016, though they do not disclose the location of the property on which he was claiming.
If Bridgen’s appeal doesn’t go his way, it may well result in a byelection if he’s declared bankrupt, as parliamentary rules dictate that he would then have to step down as MP. Before that, he may face parliamentary action for failing to declare that AB Produce was paying his rent and energy bills.
Bridgen represents North West Leicestershire, which he held in the 2019 election with 62.8% of the vote.