Thursday, 28 May 2009

Wrong place, wrong time

In journalism, as in the Manchester United penalty area, there's no substitute for being in the right place at the right time.

As the Commons Speaker fell on his sword for the first time in more than 300 years, I was more than 5,000 miles from Westminster, filming in South Africa.

I'd left these shores with the naive belief that the Chancellor was one person who would know how to fill in a tax return. Not for the first time this month, conventional assumptions have been challenged.

I returned to discover my taxes had been spent on duck islands, staff quarters, Farrow & Ball wallpaper, childcare for a Minister's staff and enough large screen TVs to keep several windfarms ticking over.

There was also a further shift in the political mood, with even those MPs who believed the media were setting themselves up as arbiters of morality now apologising for their role in a discredited system.

Julie Kirkbride is still hanging on as MP for Bromsgrove despite today's Telegraph headlines.

When politicians take to the airwaves to use "my little boy" as a justification for their use of public funds, you know they're in trouble. You wouldn't put your mortgage, taxpayer-funded or otherwise, on her survival hopes.

I returned in time to read Elfyn Llwyd's transparent explanation of his own expenses in yesterday's Daily Post.

Mr Llwyd stressed his frugality by telling the paper: "I live south of the river".

Those of us who find ourselves in the same geographically challenged situation look forward to the sympathy of MPs and perhaps the odd food parcel sent with a Meirionnydd postmark.

UPDATE: Julie Kirkbride has announced that she is standing down at the next election, as will the Labour MP Margaret Moran.


Anonymous said...

Might want to point out to your colleagues over at BBC News online that they missed out Martyn Jones here (in the box 'MPs leaving Parliament') -

David Cornock said...

Thanks - the box refers to MPs who have announced their retirement since the scandal broke - Martyn Jones announced his departure before the first Telegraph report.