Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Off the record, On message.

The following excerpts come from a private conversation between a leading journalist and a very senior politician. Subjects discussed range from the ongoing expenses scandal to the freedom of information act. In accordance with current suppression of information requirements, we can only publish the excerpts on the understanding the politician is not named. In order to comply, he has the pseudonym, Mr. Bean.

Interviewer: Mr. Bean. People are asking why so many in your own cabinet were guilty of making some of the most outlandish claims. Is this what you expected of the party that you joined some thirty years ago?

Mr. Bean: What you have to realise, Nick, is that times change. Over the decades we have had to adapt our principles to suit the changing economic climate. It is easy for the shadow cabinet to claim less on expenses, but that is precisely because they have more wealth in the first place

Interviewer: But surely the reason why people joined your party in the first place was simply to realise those very principles, not to acquire wealth? That was always part of the deal, wasn't it?

Mr. Bean: Yes, but the point I'm making, Nick, is that this party has moved with the times. We now live in a world where wealth is no longer considered a dirty word, even amongst the ranks of the liberal-left. Nowadays it is acceptable to receive the same financial rewards for the same - or even better - capabilities. We live in a meritocracy.

Interviewer: Which leads me on to the other point that I wanted to question you about: If you could justify the expenses claims thus, when they were originally made, why did you and other senior politicians try for so long to suppress the information from the public?

Mr. Bean: Well, we cannot have a political agenda that is set by people who are outside of politics and who do not understand the nuances of government. And of course I am referring here to the media.

Interviewer: But you use the media to lay out your own political agenda, surely?

Mr. Bean: Indeed we do, but it is our job to set the political agenda in the first place, not theirs.

Interviewer: But isn't that why we have the freedom of information act? So that the media can uncover aspects of the political agenda of which they are not fully cognisant.

Mr. Bean: No that is not what the freedom of information act was designed to do. It was designed to be used responsibly. And the media has not used it responsibly. It has simply used it to their own ends. This is precisely why the Mother of Parliaments is in turmoil right now. And that cannot be a good thing for our democracy.

Interviewer: At least it has made you politicians do something about these outlandish claims.

Mr. Bean: But it was not handled in a responsible way. We simply cannot have complex political issues aired in public like this. It would be like a free for all. And that is precisely my point, Nick.

Interviewer: Yes, Mr. Bean.

Mr. Bean: But now, if you'll excuse me I have to go and announce another policy initiative on YouTube - on how we are going to deal with this very expenses crisis.

Interviewer: Goodbye and thank you, Mr. Bean.