Tuesday, January 27, 2009
The Sunday Times' sting has no peer
Jonathan Calvert is a remarkable reporter. Almost fifteen years ago, he and I were part of the Sunday Times Investigations Unit called Insight. It was here that the darker arts were practised in the pursuit of the truth. There were more than a few laws bent to get a story. But in one role JC was magnificent - he could act as a small time businessman looking to pay elected representatives to further his interest.
So it was that he and I went off to see what happened if MPs were offered cash to put down parliamentary questions. I did the Labour lot - and nobody took the bait although a couple came close, as I recall. Two Tories were caught. This piece of journalism, a splash in the Sunday Times in July 1994, launched the flood of sleaze that submerged the Major government. Now JC has done it again with another classic sting operation in the weekend papers - the price of a peer to fix the law. Selling public office for private gain is one lesson from history that parliamentarians and peers need to learn.