Yesterday Sky News chased Sir Thomas Legg around Whitehall with a camera crew, trying to get comment from him. He politely demurred from giving them an interview or answering any questions. This is a mistake. It frustrates the broadcast media when they can’t get access to the players. Legg needs to fight his case in the media or the political class will succeed in doing to him what they did to Elizabeth Filkin, the former Parliamentary Standards Commissioner hounded out of office by Speaker Martin, aided and abetted by that ridiculous blowhard Sir Stuart Bell. MPs have got where they are by deviousness and their ability to crush opposition. Sir Thomas has taken on hundreds of these vipers…
Guido suspects that Legg is being overwhelmed by the backlash – as far as Sir Stuart Bell is concerned he clearly didn’t understand the brief given to him by Gordon Brown – he was supposed to produce a whitewash which illuminated only “a few bad apples”. He wasn’t supposed to hose down the whole porcine political class. They are squealing because you are making them pay for their years of troughing at the public’s expense.
Only a few months ago MPs from all sides were claiming they “did not understand the rules” and they were blaming their misdemeanors on “the system”. Now that Legg is enforcing the rules within reasonably generous parameters, they claim he is retrospectively changing the rules. The same MPs who only a few months ago claimed they did not understand the rules now suddenly have a detailed understanding of the expenses criteria. Bullshit.
They also claim that the Fees Office approved everything. The Clerks in the Fees Office had no authority to exercise fine judgement on the rules – MPs jealously kept that right only for themselves. The Clerks just rejected some of the most ridiculous claims. This argument is specious, MPs signed every month that their expense claims were made “wholly, exclusively and necessarily”. The Fees Office merely took them at their word and on their honour.
Public opinion is behind Legg. MPs still don’t get it: they should never have been claiming for groceries, moats, ironing, porn, duck houses, Sky sports, digital cameras and all the rest in the first place. If you want to stand at the next election, deliver the repayments.
Sir Thomas has one fearsome weapon at his disposal. If MPs won’t pay the public purse back, tell the public. You can name and shame miscreants. Do it to them before they do you in…