you knowing how
HE Spends YOUR money on HIS Dinner
The limits of access to information held by government and other public bodies under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 have yet to be reached. The legislation continues to be tested daily. But we are gradually discovering how effective its use can be and concurrently we are witnessing the State’s horror at letting the cat out of the bag.
Nowhere has this been more devastatingly demonstrated in recent months than in the matter of disclosure of details of MPs expenses. Now it may be of little matter that the Honorouble Member for Old Sarum spent £200 on a nice new food processor for his bijoux apartment close by Westminster. What has been at stake is application of the principle that, whatever your station in life, be you ever so high, you are not above the law. Thus the House of Commons and MPs have found themselves forced into a situation where they are going to have the manner in which they have spent millions of pounds of taxpayer’s money going back to 2004 exposed to the light of day.
They are utterly horrified. They would say that they that they resent the intrusion into their private lives. One of the Bovine & Ovine, a Mr. Ken Purchase, Labour Member for Wolverhampton, was recently on the news complaining about this with the observation that he did not want the public and a load of feral journalists seeing “how much I spent on having dinner”.
And therein, ladies and gentlemen, lies the point that you and I can see but this dunderhead cannot: it is not a question of us prying into how much and upon what Mr. Purchase spent HIS money on buying his victuals but how much and upon what the Taxpayer shelled out. The mindset of MPs is thus revealed: they think it is their money and they are damned if they are going to let us intrude on how they use it. It is not theirs but ours and we are damned if we are going to let them live it up at our expense.
This process is sure to bring further casualties in its wake. Some of them may well be Conservative MPs, which those of us on the right who have enjoyed the spotlight being on some of Labour’s freeloaders will regret in the sense that one is disappointed in them letting us down. But they should feel the full force of public disapproval if they are caught buying iPods and other luxuries at our expense just as much as if they were Labour swine caught with their noses in the trough. It is MPs as a class that must be brought to heel, not just those of a particular party, if the process of restoring their public image is to commence.
The task of healing this festering sore is being led by the insistence of the Information Commissioner that public availability of these details outweighs any issue of privacy. None of this would have happened, of course, but for the Freedom of Information milieu in which we now swim. Instead there would have been a string of leaked stories about this or that outrage about MPs expenses which, in the end, would have been far more damaging. Now we shall have a once-for-all clearing out of the Augean Stables and thereafter the whole business will be subject to full open public scrutiny. After a couple more Parliaments this will be a dead issue as MPs are inhibited from grotesque acts of self-enrichment.
The power of a system in which freedom of information is the norm is being demonstrated right now in the USA where Mrs. Clinton has been forced to disgorge records of her activities during the years of her husband’s Presidency. She has tried to set herself up as against Barack Obama as the democratic candidate with the most experience, ready to govern from day one and not to have to go through any sort of learning curve. Now that her records have been revealed a process of stripping bare her claims to have been deeply involved in this or that initiative of her husband is taking place.
The result is that her claims to have taken an active part in world affairs and thus her claim to be more experienced than Obama are being utterly trashed. For example her assertion that she was ‘instrumental’ in the Ulster peace process has been exposed as a considerable figment of her imagination: she seems to have most of her time when visiting Ulster with her husband (who did play a role in the peace process) visiting women’s groups and children’s playgroup projects. Yet more of her claims will be stripped bare in coming days and she will be revealed for what she is: a dissembling mountebank who has a problem with the truth.
If this process denies her the chance to have a shot at the Presidency, so be it. If you are caught out as a serial fibber, then why should you be allowed such a chance?
Which is why we shall see, in future, all sorts of efforts by our government to limit and qualify the right to have information disclosed to us. They have had several tastes of the process and in several cases the disclosures have been really quite damaging. They utterly loathe this loss of the right to lie with impunity and, as we have seen with the tawdry efforts of Mr. Speaker and the Commons chumocracy, they will do everything they can to obstruct the process.
It is vital that every such effort be defeated. Freedom of Information will, despite the imperfections of the legislation, prove itself a formidable weapon in helping citizens call the political classes to account. And hopefully the performance of our politicians will improve commensurately, though I confess I shall not be holding my breath.