Why honesty isn't always the best policy

11 September 2009
Call me a bitter old cynic but I am not impressed with the Tories’ latest attempt to lure us on board their money-saving dreamboat. They announced on Wednesday that if they were in government, they would publish details of all government purchases over £25,000. This improved level of transparency, they say, would lead to savings. It’s true the UK government would benefit from better spend information for negotiating deals, but I feel this is nothing but an attempt at spin. And before you cry “Tory-hater”, I invite you to cast your minds back to June, when the expenses minefield blew up. Reports then revealed one Tory MP used £50,000 in expenses to pay their sister-in-law rent for a property they use as their constituency home and another apparently claimed almost £35,000 in mortgage interest payments on a London flat that they rented out – to name but two examples. So what chance do we have? How can the party promise greater transparency when it cannot control its own purse strings? I am not suggesting Labour or any other party would be more honest, but perhaps now is not the time to promote a “we are open” policy when many political careers are still fresh in the morgue – and doubtless many other MPs are quivering in their beds at night at the thought they may yet be exposed. However, if they do manage to wangle this plan and release details of all government purchases above the threshold, I will hang my doubting head in shame. As long as every personal boiler replacement, duck island and biscuit packet is accounted for in other official documentation.
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