Friday, May 15, 2009

The UK MP Expenses Scandal for American Readers

There is a HUGE House of Commons expenses scandal going on which has damaged the reputations of all MP's (fairly and unfairly), and it is generally felt the Speaker of the House has not helped by the way he has responded to this.

This scandal has consumed virtually all news media and comment here for the past seven days, since new stories are being linked by the Daily Telegraph each day, stories generated by a leaked compact disk with over a million receipts and pieces of correspondence.

The reason such a system exists is that over the past twenty years governments from both major parties have compensated MP's for keeping their salaries down, and which many MP's seem to have come to see as an entitlement to be asked through any receipts they can get their hands on, up to and including faking property deals.

The total amount involved is relatively small (just under £16,000,000 was available per year to 646 MPs), but it seems fair to say that while MP's had come to see this as just another part of their salary, most of the public do not.

The whole affair is especially damaging to the already weakened Labour government, but is damaging all the main parties.

All the other media are having to play the Daily Telegraph's tune, as it is deciding the order of the leaks. It, however, is not a neutral newspaper. It has long been the strongest bastion of the Conservative Party.

More recently it was bought, and is now being run in an extremely weird way by "the Barclay Brothers" - twin property developers who live in a fake castle off the island of Sark.

The Telegraph's coverage is here

UPDATE: For information about the oddity of the Daily Telegraph see Roy Greenslade's comments in The Guardian, as well as his comments here:

TMG's owners, the Barclay boyos, have never given a stuff about journalism. They are notoriously touchy about any criticism. They have been happy to use laws that inhibit press freedom. They want their papers to be mouthpieces for their own reactionary opinions and clamp down - through intermediaries - on anything that runs counter to their views.

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