Anorak News | Cheques And Balances

Cheques And Balances

by | 22nd, October 2004

‘THERE is something rather wonderful about Fleet Street’s finest trying to work themselves into a lather of moral indignation about the size of MPs’ expenses.

And why can’t they move to a smaller house?

An expression about pots and kettles immediately springs to mind.

After all, some of the greatest works of fiction of the past 200 years have been journalists’ expense claims.

The first lesson would-be hacks receive is not about how best to construct a news story, but about how best to fill in their expenses.

Many is the scribbler working for a national paper with no more idea how to write shorthand than Chinese, but the hack who is not master of the expense form is like Victoria Beckham’s singing voice – it doesn’t exist.

That said, the British journalist is nothing if not professional – and is happy to ignore the bit about ”he who is without sin” to cast the first stones in the MPs’ direction.

The Telegraph leads on the news that the average member claims £118,000 in expenses on top of their £57,000 salary – and that the expense bill has risen by a third in two years.

True, this sounds like a lot – long gone, sadly, are the days when £118,000 would barely cover a journalist’s annual bill for ”incidentals”.

But, as the Times’s Peter Riddell points out, the totals are small by international standards and are mostly entirely justified.

”If we, the electorate, want MPs to hold the executive to account and deal promptly with the increased volume of constituency correspondence and problems,” he says, ”they need staff to help them.”

This is, of course, true, but the second lesson that hacks learn (immediately after doing their expenses) is never to let the truth get in the way of a good story.

And so we join with the rest of Fleet Street in outing the most expensive MP in Britain.

To a chorus of ”Who are you? Who are you?”, step forward Claire Curtis-Thomas, MP for Crosby and champion of the underpaid Parliamentarian…’

Posted: 22nd, October 2004 | In: Uncategorized Comment | TrackBack | Permalink