The expenses scandal has provided a major boost for many struggling local and regional newspapers. They have been able to follow up the Telegraph’s revelations and hold their own MPs to account. In the EDP’s case, however, it proved to be the other way around. Labour MP Ian Gibson thought he was pulling a good political stunt when he volunteered to give the EDP the opportunity to publish his own expenses. But he reaped a very unfortunate reward when the Telegraph decided to compare Gibson’s published version with the information they held on him. They revealed some highly questionable conduct regarding the sale of his London flat to his daughter at half the market rate. Ian Gibson has always enjoyed a reputation as someone who doesn’t take orders from the whips and is a man of independent spirit. Like Julie Kirkbride, I would never have thought he would be caught up in this scandal. As one of his constituents said to me: “Well if Ian Gibson is involved in it, it must mean they’re all at it.”
Gibson has said he will stand down if local people want him to. What he hasn’t explained is how he will judge that. By his postbag? By the EDP letters page? By the reaction of his own local Labour Party? I think we should be told.
Mr Gibson is now said to be "considering his options". I am not surprised. I suspect his only option now is through the courts. I do wonder about the natural justice in this. Does anyone really think this would be happening if it was Ed Balls in the frame? Gibson has been a thorn in the side of the Labour whips for years, and there will be few tears shed in Labour Party HQ about his fate.
But rest assured, there will be more than a few Conservatives watching his next move with great interest.