If MPs have good defences, they shouldn’t keep them secret

Members of Parliament accused of abusing expense rules? Check.

Speaker trying to keep key information secret? Check.

The Daily Telegraph spilling the beans? Check.

You could be forgiven for thinking you’ve slipped into a passing timestream and been wafted back to the past.

The advantage of events repeating themselves is that people can learn from their mistakes the first time around. But one lesson MPs don’t seem to be learning: if you’ve got a good explanation for what you have claimed, openness not secrecy is the best option.

At first glance, the idea of MPs acquiring property thanks to taxpayer-funded expense claims and then renting them out to others sounds a clear abuse of the spirit, and quite possibly the letter, of the expense rules. However, it is not that hard to think of circumstances in which this might be a reasonable course of action.

As former Liberal Democrat staffer Nick Carthew pointed out on Twitter:

MP owns a small flat, gets married and has kids. Needs more space in London so moves to larger, rented, property. What’s the problem?

That could be the most cost-effective option for the taxpayer too. Or it might be a cover for abusing the rules. One thing is sure – if MPs have done this and do have that good defence, they need to get their story out in the open and quickly.

Just as in corporate communications, if you have a suspicious and cynical audience out there, you can’t be slow and grudging with your side of the story.

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