Sean Gabb on the Commons Expenses Row

Free Life Commentary,
A Personal View from
The Director of the Libertarian Alliance
Issue Number 182
18th May 2009
Linking url:

A Political Class is Blown Away:
Cui Bono?
by Sean Gabb

My British readers will need no reminding of what has happened during the past few weeks. However, most of my readers are not British, and many will be coming on this article several years into the future. So I will begin by saying that The Daily Telegraph has “acquired” a disk that contained about a million pages of expenses receipts put in by Members of the House of Commons, and has been publishing its findings day after day. Many of the receipts show a scandalous indifference to the niceties of honesty and proportion. There has been one resignation from the Cabinet so far. Several other Ministers are at least tainted, and may not survive much longer even in Gordon Brown’s apology for a Government. Dozens of letter political careers have been blighted. The Police have now been called in, and we are waiting to see who will be charged and with what.

It is very funny to watch these creatures squirming – rather like bugs in the sunlight when the stone under which they were sheltering is pulled over. The general defence is either to blame accounting carelessness. Otherwise, when this defence cannot reasonably be made, they blame “the system” that never stopped them from slipping their hands into the till. That the sums involved have not usually been that great makes it all the funnier. These people have, since 1997, burned their way through about two trillion pounds of our money. Most of this has been used to buy Labour votes or to oppress us – often for both at the same time. If they are now on the brink of political oblivion because of a few thousand pounds here and there spent on tampons and television sets, it is because these are things that we can comprehend. A trillion begins with one digit and is followed by twelve zeros. Claiming back £65 for a summons for non-payment of council tax is much easier to imagine.

Various further questions arise from the scandal. The first and most obvious is how anyone could be so careless in his accounting – especially when he has spent decades advertising his peculiar fitness to govern this country. Then it may be asked how so many politicians can afford to write out repayment cheques for what the rest of us might think substantial sums of money. I am not poor, but would have to wait a while before signing a cheque for £20,000. Have these people additional sources of gain that have not so far been revealed? But the question I want to ask today is why has The Daily Telegraph seen fit to expose all this dirt?

One answer is that this is the sort of thing the media of a free country exists to do. But this is not a satisfactory answer. I have been watching the British media at work for about thirty years now, and I can say that – weather reports and cricket scores aside – nothing is published in the way of news that does not serve some agenda of the great and powerful. These expense claims show at worst rather petty corruption. There are much larger scandals that are not covered by the mainstream media – and certainly not by The Daily Telegraph. There is, for example, the former police chief who used his position to stop his mistress from being blackmailed. There is a senior judge who was arrested for exposing himself to little girls in a bus shelter. There is the whole background to the Dunblane massacre in 1996. There is much else that has never found its way into the newspapers. So why this?

Another possible answer is that The Daily Telegraph is supposed to be a Conservative newspaper, and that it should, therefore, do whatever it can to hasten the end of this Labour Government. However, it has done very little against either Tony Blair or Gordon Brown. Most of the dirt published on this Government has been in The Daily Mail or The Independent. In any event, if the worst abuses have been by Labour politicians, these expenses claims have damaged politicians in all the main parties. Using them for party political purposes is much like using atom bombs to win a trench battle.

No – I believe that this wind that will blow away much of our political class was produced for – if not by – Boris Johnson. He is not currently in the House of Commons, but is Mayor of London. He has obvious ambitions to be at least the next but one Conservative Prime Minister. He is, so far as I can tell, the only person of significance likely to benefit from this expenses scandal. He benefits so far as he is untouched by it, and so far as many of those who do or might stand in his way will be discredited.

I have no direct evidence of this claim. But I can supply what I regard as reasonable inferences from past behaviour that stand beside estimates of present interest.

To begin with past behaviour, it may be recalled that, around the turn of the century, I ran the Candidlist Project. This provided information about the stated or likely views of Conservative politicians about the European Union. It was a very feeble thing compared with what has since been achieved by Guido Fawkes – or even by The Daily Telegraph. But it scared the life out of several hundred normally shameless politicians, and destroyed about a dozen careers. I may have unseated one Member of Parliament. During the approach to the 2001 General Election, I put the Candidlist Questions to Boris Johnson, who was at the time the Conservative candidate for Henley and a senior journalist at The Daily Telegraph and Editor of The Spectator. At first, he refused to answer my questions. Then he gave some very unsatisfactory answers. I made great fun of him, and this was picked up by several newspapers.

What I did next was to start pressuring the directors of companies that were funding a campaign for Britain to join the Euro. This pressure included a threat to publish the home addresses of directors who refused to stop funding what I regarded at the time as treasonable propaganda. Almost at once, I found myself on the front page of The Daily Telegraph, for two days running accused of what would nowadays be classed as terrorism. The journalist concerned managed to claim that publishing the home addresses of people like Fred Goodwin was tantamount to putting dynamite through their letterboxes. I was outraged by the claims, and it took me several days to appreciate the funny side of things. Back then, though, this was still a free country, and everyone else had a good laugh at me and then forgot the matter. It is unlikely that the Police even read the claims, let alone considered how many dozen officers they could fit through my front door before shooting me.

Now, it might have been some alarmed company director who had me done over. More likely, it was Boris Johnson, calling on his friends to punish me for what I had done to him. This was his newspaper. He has always had a reputation for bearing grudges and for a ruthless viciousness in advancing his own interests. If so, it may be relevant that the journalist who defamed me in 2001 was Benedict Brogan – and that it is Benedict Brogan who is now supervising the publication of the Commons expense claims. It may also be relevant that no claim submitted by Mr Johnson while he was in Parliament has yet been published or commented on. Perhaps Mr Johnson ran his finances as a Member of Parliament with more attention to the proprieties than he did his private life. We may one day learn the truth.

As for present interest, I have already explained this. At the beginning of the present month, Mr Johnson was an important elected officer. But he was out of Parliament, and had dropped out of competition with a leadership that growing in confidence with every downward step of the Brown Government. He is now the one leading Conservative who has not been tainted by allegations of fraud or allegations of having tolerated the frauds of others. It still looks as if the Conservatives will win the next election – even they cannot managed the incompetence and cowardice now needed to save Labour. And it looks as if David Cameron will be the next Conservative Prime Minister. But Boris Johnson has grown in public stature during the past fortnight, and he may be able, after the next election, to come forward with claims to preferment that cannot be denied.

I have no reason for not wanting Mr Johnson to succeed in politics. He is no worse than anyone else, and has given the occasional sign of being better. He was beastly to me a long time ago, and has almost certainly been beastlier to other people who have got in his way. I say what I have said because I believe it to be true, and because, if it is true, I might pick up some credit for having said it first.

NB—Sean Gabb’s book, Cultural Revolution, Culture War: How Conservatives Lost England, and How to Get It Back, can be downloaded for free from

8 responses to “Sean Gabb on the Commons Expenses Row

  1. Sean,

    It is not that often that I find myself in disagreement with you, but on this point I feel that I should.

    Whilst I can see that Boris would be a natural successor to Cameron should the event arise at some stage in the future, I find it incredible that Boris either has the wherewithal or the planning ability to corrupt the fees office over such a large number of years.

    I published today my view on where the motivation for this fiasco has come from, and like you agree that there must be more to this than face value of the Telegraph.

    However, where we differ is that I do not for one moment believe that this has anything to do with domestic political ambition, but more to do with the salami slicing encroachment of the EU, and their need to destroy the authority of our parliament as part of the greater plan of replacing nation states with EU regions.

  2. You could be right about the EU connection. However, I don’t claim that BJ corrupted the Expenses Office, only that he benefits from publication by one of his friends of information from the Expenses Office.

  3. The Special Branches of the various County Police Forces are what used to be “the arms and legs and eyes and ears” of MI5. Not now: as Stella Rimington tells us so candidly, and at some personal risk, Britain us — as of right now — a Police State.

    “One Nation, under Surveillance, with phone-taps and snooping for All.”

    “Cui Bono”?

    “Treason never prospers: What’s the reason?

    While it prospers, none dare call it Treason.”

    Now, who are the chief obstacles to ACPO’s Power-Grab?

    Answer: Parliament.

    ACPO binds the powers of ALL the Constabularies together. Therefore, MI5’s former eyes and ears and arms and legs have a new body — ACPO.

    [ FX: “That Hideous Strength.” ]

    The “independent media” will not piblish exposes of Police misbehaviour. Instead, they are stuffed with recycled Police press handouts.

    Almost everyone has a “police” story to tell…..

    How do I get Sean to see this? He (and others here) are so preoccupied with hating the EU that they fail to see how these scandals benefit ACPO, by weakening Parliament across the Board.”

    “First, they came for the BNP, bit we don’t like the BNP so we didn’t care…

    Then they came for the Tories, but we didn’t much care for the Tories, but we aren’t Tories, so we didn’t care.

    Then they came for NuLabour, but we don’t much care for them, so we didn’t care….


    The opposition to ALL the alternative Powers in the land is not “Anarchy”: Rather, it’s ACPO…

    Go see what’s in store…

    Whenever national policing and counter-espionage are united into one Force, we have the template of the NKVD: the Gestapo: The FBI: ACPO…

    Ask not for whom the Bell tolls…

    ADM Anthony Hugh Hollick GS18

    [ FX: “It starts with a Man and a Woman in a Garden” ]

    [ FX: “It ends in Revelations…” ]

    Come and see…

  4. Pingback: Boris Johnson, not-MP « The Landed Underclass

  5. Oh, tish and pish, Sean. The Telegraph would have published whether BJ existed or not.

    “It may also be relevant that no claim submitted by Mr Johnson while he was in Parliament has yet been published or commented on.”

    This can be plausibly put down to BJ having friends in the Telegraph. But that doesn’t indicate a conspiracy to eventually make him Prime Minister.

    And I wouldn’t bet on BJ becoming Prime Minister – so much can happen in 5 years, let alone 10 or 15.

    You may well be right that “nothing is published in the way of news that does not serve some agenda of the great and powerful”. But this story is so fantastic that there are no circumstances under which a newspaper would not publish it. They published it because it sold papers. It certainly made them back their £150,000. They published it to make profit.

    Certainly the Labourgraph haven’t exactly been on-message for the Tories. But this story is so colossal that it could well swing the EU elections next fortnight. Hopefully, UKIP, who looked like they were going to lose seats, will gain.

    As Ian Hislop put it on HIGNFY, normally one of these stories would run for a week. And the Telegraph is publishing several every day!

    You are right that plenty of scandals do not make the official press. This is usually because they are boring. Pretty much every story in Private Eye should be a major scandal. But they are boring scandals that do not capture the public imagination, and do not sell papers.

    This, I think, is a more plausible explanation than your Dunblane conspiracy theories.

  6. “This, I think, is a more plausible explanation than your Dunblane conspiracy theories.”

    All conjectures are hypotheses, tentative guesses, to be corroborated and tested. In the absence of a permanent record of what is going on in men’s minds, the possibility of coordinated actions cannot be discounted a priori, which you seem to be trying to do.

    Many soi-disant “conspiracy theories” will turn out to be mistaken (a fate they share with Special and General Relativity; and the Copenhagen School of Quantum Mechanics).

  7. From the Google cache of Nadine Dorries’ blog, now taken down after threats from the Barclay brothers,

    “Parliament is in chaos. The public are angry. The Telegraph has upped its circulation.
    There are 650 members of Parliament. In any walk of life, in whatever profession, you will find people who are dishonest. It will always be thus as long as we are all human!

    The Telegraph are uncovering a few cases of fraud, but not enough, so they are more than slightly embellishing some of the stories. I write as a case in point.

    Enter the Barclay brothers, the billionaire owners of The Daily Telegraph.
    Rumour is that they are fiercely Euro sceptic and do not feel that either of the main parties are Euro sceptic enough. They have set upon a deliberate course to destabilise Parliament, with the hope that the winners will be UKIP and BNP.

    A quick online check of the Barclay brothers and their antics on the Island of Sark is enough to give this part of the rumour credence.

    Another rumour is that the disc was never acquired and sold by an amateur, but it was in fact a long term undercover operation run by the Telegraph for some considerable time, carefully planned and executed; and that the stories of the naive disc nabber ringing the news desk in an attempt to sell the stolen information are entirely the work of gossip and fiction.

    These rumours do have some credibility given that this has all erupted during the European Election Campaign and turn out is expected to be high with protest votes, courtesy of the Daily Telegraph, or should I say the Barclay brothers.

    Now, if this is all a power game executed by the BBs, how would they do that?
    It is a fact that these men are no fools and are in fact self-made billionaires.
    I would imagine and believe that if any of this is true, they know the British psyche well enough to whip up a mood of public anger, hence the long running revelations in the DT.

    Where do I get this from? Well, at heart I am just a cheeky scouser. I like to go into the rooms of the faceless and nameless in Parliament, sit on their desk and ask pertinent questions like: who are you? What do you do? I’ve made friends with one or two. One in particular I am very fond of. He is a mine of very astute information; and whilst in his office yesterday, we chunnered over the ‘what is this all about?’ question.

    He reckons this is all a power game. That the British public are being worked like puppets by two very powerful men. Whipped up into a frenzy to achieve exactly what they want.”

  8. According to press reports, the “naive source” of the “expenses” data is a former SAS officer… Anyone who thinks that SAS is “naive” is in for a rude awakening.

    It’s not a matter of “Whose ox is getting gored.”

    OUR ox is getting gored by orchestrated campaigns to defeat an elected (if oftentimes unattractive) parliament, so as to destabilize this country as part of a terroristic “Strategy of Tension” (Italy, 1970s) and bring down an elected government in a rigged election where the “hangers and floggers” wing of the Tory Party are expected to benefit.

    Webster Griffin Tarpley spells the methodology out with elegant precision in his book “Synthetic Terror.” People who point this out may be dismissed as “conspiracy theorists”, which conveniently evades the core issue of the truth of the assertions themselves, which is all that really matters.

    Even in an anarchy — and the competing oligarchies are bringing us to that unhappy state — might want to reconsider, and ponder whether or no they wish to have respected and upheld rights; and a right to a say in what most affects them.

    Ballots are preferable to bullets, which are the end-state of the Clash of the Oligarchs. And the factions of the State have the most (licenced) bullets…

    William Hill offered me six to one on a Labour victory at the Polls… I’ll stay with Peter Mandelson & Co. for now… At least they have intelligence and sensitivity…

    BTW: I should have the 80 minute video of me being beaten up, tortured, threatened, harrassed and dismissed as “mad” or something. All the while, they said: “Drop the Criminal Complaint of ‘Unwarranted Demands with Menaces’ against SAFECAM and you can walk out of here.”

    SAFECAM, an ACPO project, is a profit-making subsidiary of Avon and Somerset Constabulary, according to its WHOIS…

    Its Chair is Ms. Jackie Roberts, a nice-looking girl who happens to be the Assistant Chief Constable of Avon & somerset Constabulary ATM…


    Tony Hollick

    PS: I got another SAFECAM Automated “Notice of Intended Prosecution” yesterday, alleging that I had driven through a red light over twenty seconds after it had turned red… As usual, there are Unwarranted Demands with Menaces, with a customary “Ante up now and don’t suffer too much.”

    An “Offer you Can’t Refuse…” or so they think…