Puzzled with expenses...

I’m rather puzzled by this malarkey about the - MP’s Expenses Scandal - (add exclamation marks where appropriate) - it’s wrong of course to claim for a Kit-Kat or Bath Plug and especially for tampons when you’re a bloke.
None of the above assists you in the role of representing your constituents in parliament. And from a professional point of view the whole "communications" and "public relations" response has been shite.
Surely it’s an indelible strain of British culture to screw the system as much as you can for as long as you can get away with it. Just look at the banks and the whole British economy if you want evidence.
And, as a former hack, it seems strange to see journalists beating their breasts about the hypocrisy (something us Brits do so well) of the MPs claiming expenses for second homes, renovations, prams, tampons and, in one case, mole infestation.
As a desk editor, on a newspaper, sometimes my eyebrows where at the back of my head when I read some expense claims which I knew to be completely spurious. For instance charging for mileage to interview a farmer in Northumberland when I had overhear the said journalist interviewing the farmer from the office 360 miles away before going to the pub for lunch.
This was at a newspaper which had its own ATM to dispense expenses at the end of every week. I remember it well. It meant I could feed my family every week. Which is the same argument the MPs are using "You, the tax payer don’t pay us enough so we have to do this fiddley-expensy-housing thing".
Did I fiddle my expenses? Possibly. Did I claim for a Kit-Kat? No.
You see no-one is free from blame but most of us - civil servant, accountant, solicitors, business man/woman, teacher - keep a sense of proportion and consider the implications if we abused the system too much. We thought about the how it would look to our peers and the people we served and hung our heads in shame thinking about the implications for our reputation.
Reputation - now there is thing! Honour, Clarity and Honesty.
Which brings me to communications. So far the Government has been in denial - "we followed the rules" - and the Tories and the Lid-Dems are very quiet, waiting to hear what is revealed about them. But no one is communicating.
First rule of crisis communications is to understand that you are in a crisis. Second rule, come up with a strategy to address the issue. Third rule, is to talk to people.
Problem is no-one is talking.

1 comment:

Tom Craik said...

You're right about the terrible response. Not giving an official response quickly enough lead to journalists approaching the MPs themselves (although they would have done that anyway), who clearly have no idea of how to respond successfully to this kind of public criticism.

The fact that they followed the rules is not the point. I hope they realise this now.