So, it emerges that the home secretary claimed for about £20 quid of pay-per-view movies on her expenses - and that two of them are what polite gentlemen may refer to as “specialist.” Porn to the rest of us.
The media went nuts over the former. Various news bulletins were leading on the story, with photographers and TV crews camped outside Jaqcui Smith’s home.
Now don’t get me wrong - I think the media has a huge role to play in holding politicians to account. I think Tony McNulty was let off with some pretty light coverage when it emerged he was claiming a second home allowance for a property 8 or so miles from his home - let alone the fact that his constituency is in London.
I accept that the sum involved her is trivial and it was probably a genuine mistake. What bothers me is that the media was like a rat up a drainpipe for the story. And what got bumped - here are just a few of the stories relegated to the ‘in brief’ sections of todays news broadcasts.
- Chinese hackers may be able to control NATO computers - link
- A leaked G20 document showing British plans for a £1.4tn spending plan - link
- Of 113 complaints against MPs the £108,000-a-year Parliamentary Commissioner for standards has resolved ONE - link
Now I’m sorry but any one of these stories is infinately more relevant, and covering them would certainly be in the public interest.
Equally, nobody seems to be questioning whether it’s a worry that the person in charge of the nation’s anti-terror operations, and who so passionately advocated locking people up for 90 days without trial, isnt able to fill in a form. Moreso, I havent heard anyone question how the error could be made, given that surely receipts have to be submitted? If so, does Ms Smith not use the receipts to fill in her expenses claim? That’s about the only angle I think vaguely valid - but even then within a wider debate about expenses.
The saddest thing of all is that I can’t help but wonder if it was just £15 of box office movies and no porn, it would have made a p15 footnote.
Earlier in the week I finally caught up with Alistair Campbell’s appearance on the Culture show, and his thoughts on ‘In the Loop.’ The conversation moved onto the media’s view of politicians, and how they have a duty to promote a high standard of debate - and if they fail to do so, they are complicit in the deteriation of political discourse.
It’s rare I say it, but Campbell was absolutely right - and today has been a very vivid demonstration of his point.