Posts Tagged ‘Gordon Brown’

Seeing through expenses transparency

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

Seeing through expenses transparency
The Guardian, Thursday 23 April 2009
By Heather Brooke

Gordon Brown’s reforms may include some much-needed changes to MPs’ expenses, but they don’t go far enough

On Saturday Gordon Brown said he had more important things to deal with than MPs’ expenses.

On Tuesday morning, there was nothing more important than MPs’ expenses and their immediate reform was a top priority. What had changed in that three-day time period?

Well I’d like to think a little documentary I did for Dispatches – The Westminster Gravy Train – had something to do with his sudden about-face. This film marked the culmination of my five-year battle to chisel out of MPs’ grasping hands the detailed receipts of their expense claims.

You can’t hope for a better result as a campaigner than to have the prime minister announce a major policy change within 48 hours of your documentary. Is this the power of television? Was Brown watching and choking on his dinner?

I’d love to think so, but the reality is that his announcement probably had more to do with the fact a very unpopular budget was coming on Wednesday and Brown needed some good news. Or perhaps he finally tuned into the massive public anger over the excessively generous parliamentary expense system. Maybe he understood at last that the public were so angry that they were not going to forget this issue in a few days, or even a few weeks. That’s what politicians count on. But the stories of expense abuses have kept on coming. Yesterday, cross-party talks on proposals put forward by Brown broke down. And today, Christopher Kelly, chairman of a Westminster sleaze watchdog, said politicians must not be left to decide for themselves how the system should be reformed. For as long as the House of Commons refuses to publish the receipts, the slur on all MPs’ reputations will remain.

Brown’s raft of reforms, which were announced via a bizarre video on YouTube, will be voted upon next week. They include: