Revisiting Jo Swinson and the Telegraph's #mpexpenses stories

by Stephen Tall on June 11, 2009

Remember the Telegraph’s hatchet job on Lib Dem MP Jo Swinson during their series of revelations about MPs’ expenses? (Lib Dem blogger James Graham has followed-up the issue on his own Quaequam Blog! HERE).

Well, on Monday evening, as billed here, I had the chance to put these points direct to the Daily Telegraph’s assistant editor, Andrew Pierce, at a debate posing the question, A triumph for journalism? (You can watch the debate online here – worth watching in full, but the section focusing on Jo starts about 29 minutes in).

The issues of dodgy Telegraph reporting – specifically in the case of Jo, and also those of Andrew George and Alan Reid covered by my LDV colleague Alix Mortimer HERE – is the subject of two in-depth articles by Judith Townend on journalism.co.uk, published today:

  • Telegraph ‘didn’t tell any lies but was selective in its facts’, says Lib Dem Voice site editor
  • Were these MPs’ expenses stories misleading? The screen grabs
  • The article also picks up on an expenses issue we at LDV missed:

    ThisisGloucestershireToday.co.uk reported that the Telegraph had promised to correct a story about a mortgage interest of £1,500 a month, made by Liberal Democrat MP Martin Horwood. The MP denies claiming for any mortgage interest payment.

    This week I spotted something that might perhaps qualify as unique: a letter to a local newspaper which is a fair-minded, well-written and intelligent analysis of the MPs’ expenses situation. It’s well worth quoting in full:

    AMID all the hubbub created by the Daily Telegraph and MPs’ expenses, a few facts stand out.

    1. A small number of MPs seem to have done something that is a matter for the police and the courts.

    2. A larger number of MPs, but still a minority, have done things that are surely not illegal but are to their shame. Their constituents will pass judgment if they dare stand again for election.

    3. Some of the MPs named have clearly done nothing wrong or have made a small mistake that has been grossly exaggerated. They deserve an apology from the Telegraph.

    4. The majority of MPs have not even been accused of anything, yet seven per cent of people in a recent poll thought all MPs were corrupt. Let us hope that none of those seven per cent ever stand for parliament – who would want them in charge of the justice system?

    5. A significant minority of MPs has been campaigning for years to try to clean up MPs’ expenses. They succeeded in stopping a backbencher’s attempt to exempt MPs’ expenses from Freedom of Information legislation. They deserve credit for their efforts.

    There is a tendency for cynical people to think they are worldly wise, but they are not.

    They are gullible, because they will believe anything bad. There are some in the media who seem determined to create cynicism about politicians. Ask yourself why.

    Whatever the final outcome of this scandal, we cannot rebuild our parliament and government on cynicism and disrespect.

    We need urgently to identify the honest MPs, regardless of party, and rebuild around them.

    S Harvey, Hambrook, Bristol.

    Quite.