Tomos Livingstone's latest column for the Western Mail was entitled 'No expense spared as we end MP's annus horribilis'. The line that caught my eye was "But enough ink has been splashed, and enough trees felled .....as a result of the expenses scandal, for now at least." For once, I do not agree with Tomos. The scandal that is expensesgate' has not been closed. Its crucial that it remains at the forefront of our minds until there has been a General Election. Worrying about ink and trees is exactly what MP's want us to do. The current Parliament is a flawed Parliament, without authority - and will remain so until the 'people' have had their say.
I have just started reading 'No Expenses Spared', written by Robert Winnett and Gordon Raynor, two of the key figures in the publication of MP's expenses by the Daily Telegraph. So much I had already forgotten - and I'm only on page 73. The efforts made to prevent the information ever becoming public, which is put at around £100,000 for lawyer's fees of our money. The blatant attempt to exempt MPs from the Freedom and Information Act. And who can forget those redacted receipts? I've still got 285 pages to go.
We know that most MPs are honest, genuine, hard working representatives of constituencies they are proud of, and want their constituents to be proud of them. We know that the indiscriminate nature of publication has resulted in some MPs being vilified (through mockery) for what seemed to me to be relatively minor mistakes, while others who seemed to me to be guilty of near-fraud escaped with hardly a mention. At times, I thought the Telegraph was going too far - only for it to be vindicated by yet more revelations. I know that many of my friends in politics now have nothing but contempt for the Telegraph, and that they genuinely believe they have been unfairly treated. I believe that the Daily Telegraph rendered great service to the British political system. The 'unfairness' was the result of the Telegraph having to do all the spade work. If Parliament had published the information itself, in an organised way, there would have been a better chance of the worst 'offenders' being highlighted.
We do have a chance to 'clean up the system' - but its definitely not a job for the current Parliament. Its a job for the next Parliament, elected after a discussion with the voters about what is expected of them. Far from this issue being put on the back burner, it should stay on our front pages until the General Election, which should have been held in the autumn. MPs and journalists might be a bit bored with this issue, but it would a deadly blow to our democracy if the public were to feel the same way. Let the anger intensify. Let the wrath of the voters be unleashed. Any newspaper that 'turns the other cheek' is failing in its duty.