Three years ago, Britain was scandalised by the Daily Telegraph’s exposure of MPs’ appalling – and in many cases criminal – expense claims. Duck houses, moats and phantom mortgages featured heavily.
We thought it was all in the past until Labour’s Denis MacShane was forced to resign today after a parliamentary committee found he had submitted 19 false invoices which were “plainly intended to deceive” Parliament’s expenses authority.
Judging from the Parliamentary Committee on Standards and Privileges’ report, MacShane shamelessly used taxpayers’ money to fund his personal and political interests. Bizarrely the police dropped an investigation into MacShane’s deceit for lack of evidence – let’s hope they read the parliamentary report, which will provide the evidence they were incapable of finding.
By coincidence, this week I’ve been reading Robert Winnett and Gordon Rayner’s book about the Telegraph’s 2009 expenses scoop, No Expenses Spared. The story of how MPs tried to keep the scandal secret is as shocking now as it was in 2009. The Telegraph deserves huge credit for the way it investigated more than a million expenses documents in a matter of weeks. My main reservation was that it focused only on Labour ministers for the first few days, giving the impression that this was a Labour scandal.
Meanwhile, here’s my blogpost from May 2009, written the evening MPs were being ripped to shreds by the BBC Question Time audience in one of the most compelling editions of that show. I pointed out that the MPs’ excuses were groundless. And here is my manifesto for a new politics in the wake of the expenses scandal.