Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Will This Satisfy Peter Oborne?

I don't think it is the done thing to talk about attending Private Eye lunches. But I promised Peter Oborne to pay homage to the Freedom of Information Campaigner, Heather Brooke, who I met for the first time. Without her campaigning tenacity the MPs expenses scandal would have never come to light. When Oborne arrived at the lunch he immediately threw himself at Heather's feet and kissed them. Atta boy. I had a long chat with Heather towards the end of the lunch. I'd like to be transparent and tell you what we discussed. But I'd never get invited again. :)

It was good to see Adam Macqueen again. He worked for me briefly (don't they all?!) at Politico's many moons ago and is now one of the Eye's main journalists. He is also writing a history of the magazine to mark its 50th anniversary, and blogs HERE. An all round good guy.


Victor, NW Kent said...

Attaboy it is written.

But Attagirl would be my sentiment.

HarveyR said...

Heather Brooke should be lauded to the heights.

It's not just MPs expenses though. She has used the FoI Act to get disclosure of the massive level of payments made by the police to settle complaints against them.

Even from the forces who complied with her FoI requests this amounted to £ millions every year. Each one of those payouts represents a member of the public who has had a valid and serious complaint against the police, yet the public would rather rant about moats, and duck islands.

I'd happily give MPs the odd kitchen re-fit or garden makeover if only they'd do something about the apalling way honest members of the public are treated by public bodies like the police.

Go Heather!

Anonymous said...

I guess Heather is an expatriate American. I always wondered about Americans making their homes in Britain moving out from that land of opportunity as journalists, doctors, scientists and academics. I suggest she should concentrate her attention on the shenanigans of House of Reps and Senators, nepotism at work in IVY league universities etc..Not all is transparent across the pond.

Triple exes all round said...

If it takes an American to sort out our joke of a political and public system then so be it.

Her story about how she was treated by bodies she approached is quite illuminating.

She's also a bit of a redhead babe, which is useful when there's no politcs on the telly.

Anonymous said...

Surely it should be "attaboy"?

Bert Rustle said...

The complaint against Derek Conway was instigated by former Police Inspector Michael Barnbrook

... who stood against [Derek Conway] as a candidate for the UK Independence Party, and is now a member of the British National Party.

He told the BBC: "I don't get any personal joy from it. He's my local MP - he's there to work on my behalf. It's my money he's working with and he should be using it properly.

"If he isn't and he's been suspended, or the recommendation is he's suspended, so be it." ...

Also see

Bert Rustle said...

|Reportedly, former Police Inspector Michael Barnbrook also wrote:

… I was one of the complainants against the Conservative MP, Michael Trend, when he was forced to stand down in 1992 for misappropriating nearly £100,000 of taxpayers money by abusing the additional costs allowance.

… [also] … in the case of Sir Nicholas and Lady Winterton, who will stand down at the next election after having been found guilty of abusing Parliamentary allowances.

[also] … Michael Martin, the Speaker of the House, in the airmiles fiasco.

… I was one of two complainants against Jacqui Smith for apparent abuse of her second home allowance.

I have also submitted a report to the Metropolitan Police asking them to investigate her activities.

… I have written to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner recently, asking him to investigate the activities of Elliot Morley who claimed £16,000 of taxpayers money after his mortgage had finished.

… It was also as a direct result of the Conway affair that a meeting took place between the Metropolitan Police and Parliamentary Officials, which resulted in the Eighth Committee on Standards and Privileges report of 2007/8, which sets down a protocol for dealing with MPs’ suspected of criminal behaviour. …

Anonymous said...

@ HarveyR

I'm in total agreement with you - Heather should be given some form of formal acknowledgement for the work she has done.

copydude said...

Well done, Iain,

The Daily Telegraph does not pay adequate tribute to Heather Brooke.

Ms Dorries questioned the DT and its claims of 'a triumph of investigative journalism', when in fact it was handed the story on a plate and barely acknowledged Heather's five year battle.

Ms Dorries other point - that the media knew full well for years about the system and said nothing - is also something for which she was pilloried by the DT.

I make no case for Ms Dorries but I think she was on the ball about the DT which is why they gagged her fairly smartish.

While it is good that information has come out, the DT has skewed this story into one of hatemongering against selected targets rather than constitutional reform. The stories of expense crimes are weighted in favour of 'shopping trolley envy' rather than actual fraud. This is rabble rousing not investigative journalism.

Today, the DT clearly publishes a planted slight on Hazel Blears which is not news and is easily dissected by DIzzy.

I wonder, if Heather had uncovered the stories and receipts a couple of years earlier, whether any paper would have had the courage to run them? I doubt it.

Adam Macqueen said...

Aw, shucks...

Nice to see you again, too.

TY said...

The famous FOI act instigated by Labour that you Tories fought tooth and nail against? Why haven't Cameron's expenses cost him his job? Are you and the media all hypocrites? The tax dodging Barclays who are as transparent as the Kremlin. Lord Black says hi from jail.