Martin Bright

Mea Culpa: I’m in the Electronic Stocks

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I have just received what I hope is the last of a series of letters from the parliamentary commissioner, John Lyon. He has informed me that a complaint against me has finally been resolved, which is something of a relief.

When I first heard from him I must say I was irritated. Someone called Mark Pack had pointed out over the summer that I had not updated my entry in the journalists' register of interests. This is the mechanism whereby members of the lobby, who gain access to parliament thanks to their connection with an individual media organisation, register other paid employment. When I was at the Observer and the New Statesman I had been pretty assiduous about keeping up my register of interests. 

Mr Pack's complaint came in after I had left the New Statesman and before I joined the Jewish Chronicle so my first thought was: "Haven't you got anything better to do?"

But it turned out that I was still, strictly speaking, a member of the lobby because the New Statesman hadn't asked for its pass back until the end of the summer. 

I was in breach of the letter of the rules and so I have now agreed for my interests to be printed in bold as a public humiliation and a warning to others! I have been put in the electronic equivalent of the stocks on Parliament Square.

Despite my initial annoyance, I think it is only right and proper that journalists should be held to account in this way. If we are to pass judgement on the conduct of MPs then we should understand that we are not immune to scrutiny ourselves.