All this has got me thinking about something David Cameron said recently: that "sunlight is the best disinfectant". And if this is the effect this transparancy on our MPs, then just think how it would chasten Whitehall departments. One of the Tories' most encouraging plans is to force the disclosure of every item over £25,000. As I say in my News of the World column today it means that every five-a-day adviser, every unnecessary junket at a five-star hotel, will be up for all to see. This will have more power than a hundred top-down efficiency reviews. And when it comes out, I suspect we'll see far more horror stories.
The expenses farrago should teach Cameron this: transparency, combined with public anger, is a more powerful force than he ever imagined. So his £25,000 threshold will help him cut costs more than the most ferocious slash-and-burn efficiency tsar. So if I were him, I'd think two things: can the £25k threshold be lowered, and expose more of the long tail of government waste? And can it be compulsorily extended to local government? Windsor and Maidenhead Council have published every cost over £500 (although the name of the supplier, by itself, doesn't really tell you much - and I do hope that the £5k to Eton College isn't someone's tuition fee). This shows that such transparency is possible. So should Cameron force all councils to do follow suit? It would be a huge coup for people power.
Tory plans to force transparency of spending - for example, by forcing all councils to release it in the same format so people can make aggregating programmes - is one of these policies that sounds nerdy now but may prove to be revolutionary in curbing the cost of government waste. Sunlight is the best disinfectant - and there has been plenty to disinfect in Westminster. Just think of how much we can save by forcing Whitehall into the daylight.