Peter Hoskin

Brown looks to overtake Cameron on expenses

Brown looks to overtake Cameron on expenses
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So the race to go further, faster, harder on expenses continues, with news in the Guardian this morning that any Labour MP who has "made improper expenses claims" will be "automatically deselected" and prevented from standing in the next election.  They also report that Brown has given his ministers until Monday to have their expenses claims for the past five years "lodged with the parliamentary authorities and ready for publication".

Despite the obvious political positioning cum catch-up effort (as the Guardian warns us, Brown's expected to give a "major TV interview" on Monday), I guess we should welcome these measures in principle.  On paper, at least, they're slightly stricter that Cameron's - who has threatened to remove the whip from Tory MPs who decline to pay back dodgy expense claims  - and the whole damn mess does seem to warrant deselections.  But I still think that the Tory leader has taken the lead on this issue, due to swifter, less ambiguous, action over the past week.  And Brown will struggle to spin his measures as anything other than an echo.

Yet, as this is Brown we're talking about, I can't help being slightly sceptical.  Sure, it's all very well to talk about deselection, but who will decide when a Labour MP's expense claims have been "improper"?  And will it include those Cabinet ministers who have been implicated so far, or those who may be implicated in future?  Somehow, I suspect that Brown will always protect his little coterie of advisers and hangers-on.  But we shall see.