Thursday, 7 June 2012

No Expenses Spared

No Expenses Spared
No Expenses Spared, by Robert Winnett and Gordon Rayner, provides an account of the recent UK parliamentary expenses scandal. Winnett and Rayner are the two journalists who initially exposed the story, with a series of scoops in the Daily Telegraph.

A complete database of MP's expenses claims and payments was leaked to the Telegraph in May 2009, and the details were front-page news every day for several weeks. This gradual revelation (or serialisation) of the leaked expenses ensured that the story dominated the news agenda for most of the year.

The most serious breaches of parliamentary rules involved MPs making false claims for mortgages, and these resulted in criminal prosecutions. However, the scandal came to be epitomised by the absurdly anachronistic claims made by privileged and out-of-touch Conservative politicians: Douglas Hogg submitted a £2,000 moat-cleaning bill, and Peter Viggers claimed more than £1,000 for an ornamental duck house.

The repercussions of the scandal included, for the first time in over 300 years, the resignation of the Speaker of the House of Commons. Several cabinet ministers also resigned: Jacqui Smith was humiliated as her expenses included charges for porn films viewed by her husband (an individual story broken by the Sunday Express, before the Telegraph's investigation), and Hazel Blears was forced to quit after Prime Minister Gordon Brown refused to support her. The scandal was one of a series of public-relations crises affecting Brown's government, and when James Purnell resigned from the cabinet he also called for Brown's resignation.

No Expenses Spared is essentially a diary of the scandal's daily developments, from the perspectives of journalists in the Telegraph's newsroom. The background to the leak, and the initial frenzy as the story broke, are covered in minute detail, though the later ramifications (including the various ministerial resignations) are summarised in a single chapter. There is no index.

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