How strange, I've just read this
on Iain's blog, and, as one his "chums" that equally expressed his disgust
at the Friday's second reading passing of the Freedom of Information Amendment to exempt MPs from the Act, I feel compelled this morning to respond. If you go and look at Tom Watson's
blog you will find his "four-point explanation" for why he voted in favour of the Bill to restrict the publics' freedom to information about the MPs they pay. Tom says,
1. If the speaker had not guaranteed that MP’s expenses will continue to be published, I would not have supported the Bill. I repeat - you will still be able to see the expense tables like you have been able to for the last three years.
This is disingenuous bollocks. For a start, the speaker's "guarantee" is worth shit. There is no legal obligation for his word to be kept, and if, as many expect the Speaker changes in the not too distant future, there is no legal obligation for his successor to maintain it either. Secondly, this is not just about expenses. By trying to paint it as such, Tom is illustrating just how much contempt he has for the publics' freedom to know what the people they vote for are doing.
Tom then links to the profile of the Lib Dem MP that brought the expenses thing all about, Norman Baker, and claims that the expense tables have been available for three years anyway and will remain so. What he doesn't say is that, on the specific issue of expenses, it was never about those limited expense tables that have been previously available.
The issue of expenses was about the detailed breakdown tables, for example on transport
, which show us, the public (who are also the paymasters remember), just how much MPs are spending in detail
and on what
. Telling us that MP X spent £65,000 on travel is not the same as telling us that of that £62,000, he spent the £60,000 on taxis when say, he could have got on a bus or train like the rest of us proles do every day. Next up Tom says,
2. Despite people saying that there is protection under the Data Protection Act, public sector bodies are still revealing the private correspondence between them and MPs regarding constituents.
This is, frankly, a piss poor argument. He's basically conceding that the law exists to protect the people that MPs claim they want to protect with the amendment, it's just that public sector bodies are repeatedly breaking that law. This is a bit like deciding to rip down every house in the country to solve the problem of domestic burglary.
Here's a novel idea for you Tom, how about enforcing the bloody law? Yes, yes, I know it sounds a little radical, and I understand that it might mean the Home Office has to do some extra work on top of all the work it hasn't been doing (incidentally weren't you in the Home Office once?), but seriously, is it really too much to ask?
3. This Bill was put forward by the former Tory Chief Whip. Don’t be fooled by the disingenuous comments and synthetic outrage of Iain Dale and his chums. Incidentally, he seemed to know how many MPs from each party had voted on the Bill yesterday afternoon - before they are made available in Hansard. He can only have got this information from a source in one of the Whips offices (I’m certain the parliamentary clerks would not help him). This suggests to me that he is part of a Tory spin operation - understandable but fundamentally dishonest in regard to this piece of legislation.
Besides the fact that Iain
himself has comprehensively dealt with the pointless and baseless ad hominen
directed at him, what exactly is the point Tom is trying to make here? So it was a former Tory Chief Whip that put the Bill forward, shame on him. As it happens, a few months ago on the day that Maclean first proposed the Bill I was on 18 Doughty Street
for the evening with Iain Dale, Karen Allen (ConservativeFuture) and Tim Barnes (Tory Reform Group) and the subject came up.
My initial response to it when I heard was simply to exclaim "well that's bollocks isn't it?". The four of us were in agreement that the Bill was way off the mark, and we went on to pontificate about how we didn't think it would ever reach second reading (how wrong we were!
). For Tom to make claims of "synthetic outrage" is - and I mean this from the heart with love - bullshit.
4. Finally - If Menzies Campbell thought so strongly about this Bill, why wasn’t he there to speak and vote against it?
A reasonable point although utterly irrelevant to the fact that Tom voted for
it. It was a decent attempt at final point diversion away from his own shameful deed of attempting to legislate out of existence our freedom to find out what (however much or little) the people we pay, and elect, are up too.
The bottom line is simple. Every single one of the MPs who voted for this Bill, be they Tory, Labour, Lib Dem, black, blue, white, pink or polka-dotted, should be ashamed of themselves. The ones who didn't turn up to vote may very well have had good reasons for not attending, however, if there was collusion between the different whips office to get it through without actively endorsing it then that's shameful as well.N.B:
I fully expect to be called Iain's sock puppet, flying monkey, or some such other new and enhanced monkier by Tom Watson's "web guru" Lassie having written this. I'm actually looking forward to it because it makes me chuckle.