Friday, 25 September 2009
Over at the Telegraph, I read that there is to be a new book on the MPs’ expense scandal of this summer. It has been compiled by the Telegraph’s journalists with the help of someone they refer to as the “mole”. That’s not particularly surprising news I hear you say. The Telegraph is far to savvy an organisation to miss the opportunity of publishing a book on what was its biggest story of the year.
What is interesting is how it came by all the information. Well it goes like this.
When, after a mammoth struggle to avoid publication, the MPs were instructed to come clean, it was agreed that the papers published should be heavily “redacted” ... or censored to you and me. So of course, at our expense, a team of “redactors” was set up. Many of them were parliamentary staff seconded for the job. But, so secret was the information (unlike that information that the government keeps leaving on trains, in taxis or sending unencoded, by carrier) that they had to employ security guards to make sure that nothing was leaked.
Now here comes the interesting bit, you know, the bit where the MPs get bitten on their butts. UK soldiers, it seems, are so poorly equipped compared with other nations’ troops that they have to buy a lot of their own gear. At the same time the lower ranks are so badly paid that they can’t afford to buy it. So they are between a rock and a hard place. Being bright and inventive guys, some of them decided that, during their hard earned and very much deserved leave they would, instead of lying on a beach, or spending time with their partner, that they would go work as security people. It’s against the regulations, but when it’s a matter of life or death and the authorities are too hard up to provide you with the goods.... well, a guy’s gotta do what a guys gotta do.
Well, unfortunately for the MPs, some of these lads got jobs at the place where they parliamentary staff were “redacting” the expenses claims.
It doesn’t take a huge intellect to imagine what happened next. People working together become friends, people gossip to their mates. The soldiers got to know what was in the outrageous expense claims. It seems that the country could pay for moats being cleaned and imaginary shelves being put up, but the money ran out when they were being asked to pay for Kevlar ballistic vests, desert boots, gloves or sunglasses. All these things provided for foreign troops.
And so, in trying to keep their expenses secret the MPs inadvertently put them into the hands of people who had the best reason in the world to publicise them. No soldier was involved in the leak, I hasten to add. This was done, it seems, by civilians who had become so incensed by the comparison they were working with daily. The words “hoist” and “petard” spring to mind.
It's nothing to do with the wee ned in the picture (it was happening before his time), but I though people would like to see his wee face.