Tuesday 13 October 2009

Morning rant over expenses

MPs started to get back to me overnight to let me know whether Sir Thomas Legg wants them to repay any money.

The first to get back have all had a “clean bill of health” as one Labour MP put it.

But there is some seething resentment over how this whole thing has been dealt with and part of that anger is directed at the press.

Yesterday afternoon when I walked through Members’ Lobby, where MPs’ pigeon-holes are, there were a bunch of hacks hanging around waiting for someone to turn up and start looking through their mail – it all had a feeling of ‘vultures before the feeding frenzy’.

The thing is, the press are a constant. That is not to say they are always right or dignified, but they will always act the way they do because they are competing with one another for stories.

They certainly cannot be expected to act as a single, reserved group. The authorities, however, could have minimised damage by being open, and doing so through a coherent media strategy.

They should have given notice to MPs that they would receive an email today at, say, 11am, and then at 1pm put out a general release with a list saying who has to pay what to every single news outlet under the sun.

No-one has an exclusive, hacks concentrate on the big stories ie Brown and Cameron, and no-one has to scrabble around hounding MPs all day, so they would be happy too – it’s the plaster rule, rip it off quickly for short sharp pain.

Instead they handled it in the worst possible way yesterday – telling people that the letters will be out sometime on Monday and then leaving it until late at night to really put them out, giving the media a day to scrabble around, speculate and build up the tension. Rant over.

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