And so the Telegraph got round to the Lib Dems today. I think Lib Dem Voice, and particularly Alix Mortimer, did a fine job of sorting the wheat from the chaff.
So what is the result?
Chris Huhne - Claimed for a couple of things he probably shouldn't. Comparatively small scale. Hope he pays the money back.
Lembit Opik - er.. Silly prat for trying to claim a court summons (or whatever it technically was) but very small beer.
Alan Reid - Has a constituency the size of half of Europe and most of it takes longer to get to than a plane to Moscow. It is no wonder that he sometimes has to stay in hotels on the remote islands. And the innuendo is just stupid.
Norman Baker - How could anyone think that Norman Baker is sleazy? The fact that he wrote a couple of letters asking if some items could be claimed (and one of those appears to have been tongue in cheek) does not merit his inclusion in the Telegraph.
Ming Campbell - about the biggest loser. Seems to have misjudged the public mood on what constitutes basic and what a luxury but is saved by the fact that the flat is rented and therefore whilst the furnishings might be OTT, he will not be making a profit on them. But, at a time when the Speaker is under fire and clearly on the way out (whether at the election or before), has Ming done his chances of getting the job irreparable harm?
Julia Goldsworthy - Could she have got slightly cheaper furnishings? Yes. Were they of the 'moat clearing' level of extravagance? Not at all. She paid for much of what she bought herself (and did not claim it back) and her reason for moving was entirely valid.
Andrew George - Here the Telegraph made a major blunder. Andrew's flat buying was a bit complex, but that does not make it sleazy in any way. It seems he had clearly thought through precisely this problem and took steps to avoid any insinuations.
Nick Clegg - Silly billy for claiming a private mobile phone call. But hardly the worst mistake in the world. As Alix suggests, because he is leader he should be held to a higher standard. But has reclaimed his image with strong radio and TV performances and a workable plan for solving the sleaze.
Perhaps, as Paul Walter suggests, all MPs should adopt the David Penhaligon solution to London living?
On balance, I still think the Telegraph has done well for itself in buying the expenses disc. It has generated six front page scoops in a row and led every news bulletin for a week. And there is more to come. But I think they have tried to over egg the pudding. I'm able to rip to shreds many of the Lib Dem stories through my own knowledge and reading the likes of LDV. I have no doubt that people closely involved with the personalities in other parties will have been able to do the same. Equally, I have no doubt that there are some very sleazy things going on there including 'flipping' and claiming for things that have no place in a second home*, but the Telegraph crusade is coming apart a little through the inclusion of the likes of Andrew George, Norman Baker and Alan Reid - and Gordon Brown. If only they had just stuck to the big stuff.
*The additional costs allowance is meant to be only for necessary second home expenditure. I understand that, for a variety of reasons, some MPs will have the second home in their constituency whilst most are in London. But wherever it is, a second home is meant to be functional, not grand. A second home should not have a moat.