The recent revelations by the Daily Telegraph have created a crisis, not only for the Labour government, but increasingly for the entire Parliamentary body. The release of detailed information, including receipts, of the claims of figures across the political spectrum has demonstrated that neither the Conservatives nor Labour are immune from public scrutiny. The most disturbing claims appear to be coming from the opposition side of the house however. Claims include those by James Arbuthnot to, ‘clean his swimming pool,’ and from Douglas Hogg, the former agriculture secretary to have the moat around his country home cleared. Despite the differences in the extravagance of claims, both major parties have fared similarly in the polls with a drop of 4 percentage points each. Some have argued that the censure and condemnation which is currently being directed towards those in power is unjustified.
Although the scale of public outcry has now demanded cross party apologies, the initial reaction of politicians as the first disclosures began to be made appeared to be one of evasion. Accusations were levelled at the flawed expenses system itself and the officials who administered it. Whilst it was perhaps true that some of the claims had been outside what was necessary, it was argued that the system should have analysed and evaluated claims effectively to prevent future recriminations. Counteraccusations have been levelled by officials involved who claim that they were sometimes pressured into accepting the expenses of members.
The other defence made by ministers, and most notably the speaker, was the concentration of attention upon the parliamentary leak itself. Whilst the revelations perhaps bear attention, they argue that the criminal intention and action in publishing the details should outweigh their significance. The apparently unprofessional manner in which the Telegraph newspaper received and handled the documents was highlighted in a bid to distract attention from the details themselves. That the expenses were due to be released in July perhaps casts a degree of doubt on the need for the newspaper to publish them early. 
However, the July release of the expenses under Freedom of Information guidance is particularly misleading. It suggests an open willingness on the part of politicians to make the information publicly available. This suggestion is however largely contradicted by the history of legislative attempts to avoid such publication. In January Labour ministers, under pressure from groups within their own party and the opposition, passed a motion to exempt MP’s expenses from the Freedom of Information Act. This motion came only weeks before approximately 1.2 million receipts were due to be published. That members are currently arguing the unnecessary nature of the Telegraph’s tactics, appears in light of this to be ungrounded. There is no guarantee that the July publication would not have been thwarted just as that at the beginning of the year was. 
The details of this current crisis appear to fall into a pattern of Parliamentary political practice. There is an underlying assumption of British politics that ministers act in the public interest and over the years have granted many freedoms which are increasingly taken for granted. However, it is more often forgotten that whilst improvements and reforms are numerously made, they usually come as the result of significant popular pressure. The recent change in policy over the right to Ghurkha citizenship is one other such example of popular pressure affecting change. Hesitation should be taken before indicting the political system entirely for an apparent failure to reform autonomously. The successes made through public pressure are possible only through the accountable democratic nature of political life.
The comments directed by the Speaker Mr. Martin at the Labour member Kate Hoey and Liberal Democrat Norman Baker were attempted to stifle their criticism of the parliamentary standards. Kate Hoey’s remarks were directed at the likely police investigation of the leaked documents which she deemed to be a waste of money. Mr. Martin’s response to both was one of personal accusation and criticism. Despite his attempts to protect Parliamentary procedure from public oversight and his failure to bring significant censure against MP’s themselves for their part in the crisis, he is currently facing strong opposition to his position. Members are accountable to public pressure and must follow the tide of this. The speaker’s defence of what appears publicly to be a matter of justifiable outrage is a stance untenable in a liberal democratic system.
Though ministers had reluctantly accepted the request to release details of their expenses, it has been firmly pointed out that the costs of this process will likely far outweigh any potential loss to the taxpayer. Ministers in January revealed that claims by campaigners and the preparations necessary for the data release had already cost £500,000, and that this could rise to £1m. It should perhaps come as a comfort to ministers that the Telegraph has perhaps saved much of this necessary expense by releasing the details free of charge. A fact that is made all the more poignant by the subject matter concerned.