Clearing the clouds: MP’s expenses and a silver lining for journalism

The overwhelming saga that is the MP’s expenses scandal is nothing short of a journalistic triumph. Each day brings further revelations of both the trivial claims and dirtier manipulations of a system now in tatters.

With each new insight into how politicians have cheated the system come their pathetic bleatings as they attempt to shirk responsibility.

‘Oh dear, that particular claim was a mistake; but we weren’t breaking any rules; ah yes, now we look at it you’re right, the system is a little flawed…’

Each pithy excuse fuels further distrust in the current political system and the MP’s obsession with whether rules have been broken leaves a somewhat gaping hole in regard to  morality.

Importantly, the investigation has brought to light the most damning story of political corruption of recent years, and subsequently the power of the media to hold those in power to account has never felt stronger.

Despite a crumbling relationship between the British public and the political institution, we are seeing a new level of engagement between the public and the media, and a renewed vigour for the role of journalism.

The Telegraph’s treatment of this investigation has been nothing short of brilliant, and the sharp increase in circulation proves it.

However credit should go to the ongoing campaign and hard work of Freedom of Information expert, Heather Brooke, who has been fighting for five years to increase transparency and bring into the public domain exactly what we are seeing now. Read her excellent G2 article about her campaign here.

It was encouraging to see Roy Greenslade praising Brooke for her work in his Evening Standard column when the story initially broke:

“Brooke follows in the tradition of journalists who pursue single-minded missions on behalf of the greater good, earning only a meagre reward for their efforts.”

Heather Brooke

Heather Brooke

Journalistic investigations that harness the skills that are all too often now called ‘traditional’ are the ones that will continue to sell the papers.

Journalists rarely get a pat on the back from the British public but there is a great sense of pride in the work done by both Brooke and latterly, The Telegraph. This is the kind of public-interest story that the next generation of journalists take as inspiration.

It is encouraging to know that, in a somewhat shakey industry, it is the foundations of good investigative journalism that still captivate the readership.

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