Stephen Glover: Scoop on MPs' expenses is a triumph for the Telegraph

Over the past few years I have written some harsh things about The Daily Telegraph. I don't withdraw them. It has sometimes seemed to me that so tumultuous has been the changeover of staff that the paper has lost sight of its old values.

In some respects, it has turned into a pale shadow of the Daily Mail – the newspaper which the Telegraph's owners, Sir Frederick and Sir David Barclay, esteem above all others.

But now it is clear that out of the often messy revolution at the Telegraph, something fine and noble emerged. The expenses story will be written about by historians in a hundred years. It will become part of journalistic lore. It may lead to a transformation of politics in Britain. And one has to admit the old Telegraph which I loved and admired – whether the one owned by Conrad Black or the Berrys' paper – would probably not have had anything to do with a story that has blown a hole not only in the political class but in the Tory Party itself.

You may approve of what the paper did but think it was journalistically easy. No. It was not just a matter of transcribing lots of information from a data stick or disk that had landed in their laps. Hundreds of connections had to me made. Further questions needed to be asked. The day-by-day presentation of often complicated facts was a challenge which the paper brilliantly met. It could scarcely have been better done.

The story was problematic in another sense. Now that MPs are lining up to say sorry, and the public is in full cry, it may seem that what the Telegraph did was risk-free. Why, then, did other newspapers not run the story? The Times was offered the disk. So too, on two occasions, was The Sun. (Oddly, the Daily Mail was not). The two Murdoch-owned newspapers turned it down not, I think, principally for reasons for money, but because they did not want to be accused of planting a bomb under the House of Commons.

Neither The Times nor The Sun has been in the forefront of papers decrying MPs' expenses fiddles (their sibling, The Sunday Times, has by contrast been splendid). The Times has several columnists who automatically jump to the defence of the political class, and assure us we have the most honest politicians in the world. Its initial attitude to the issue may be judged by a leader that appeared on Saturday 9 May, the day after The Telegraph fired its first fusillade. The editorial strove to see MPs' point of view. "The outrage against MPs is not merely pious, it is also dangerous."

In the first days of The Telegraph's coverage, before the extent of public outrage was clear, the BBC also did not embrace the full force of the story. There was an underlying suggestion that the paper had gone too far. On the morning of Sunday 10 May, I heard the joyous assertion on a Radio 4 news bulletin that The Sunday Telegraph had been forced to eat "humble pie". Of course, like some newspapers, the BBC has tended in the past to perpetuate the now palpably indefensible proposition that our political class is essentially honest.

So The Daily Telegraph required some courage to do what it did. It understood that it would run into opposition. (In the first few days, more than one MP spoke of legal action. I'd be surprised if such threats ever materialise). The paper knew that by upsetting the Tories, whose in-house journal it used to be, as well as its more recently acquired friends in the Labour Party, it would sour relations with politicians for months to come. Yet still it went ahead.

Naturally I don't pretend that The Telegraph's conduct was perfect. As it was obviously in the public interest for the paper to pay for the information – it could not have been obtained in any other way – its refusal to concede that it did so seems a bit coy, and one cannot easily see how an admission would have jeopardised its source. I don't agree with those who say that it spared David Cameron, but it did exempt its own columnist Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, from any coverage. This could prove embarrassing when information about expenses is officially released by the authorities in July.

But these are tiny quibbles within the big picture. Those who grumble that The Telegraph wanted to increase its sales and enhance its profile are missing the point. By that yardstick every scoop ever published could be condemned. Newspapers can defend the public interest while serving their own interests, and it would be difficult to think of a better example than this.

The Daily Telegraph has pulled off a journalistic triumph of courage and skill which will no doubt enhance the reputation of its editor, Will Lewis. It should also establish itself as a paper that is not beholden either to the Tories or to Gordon Brown. To be sure, it is different from the old Telegraph, but for the first time it is possible to say this is no longer a bad thing.

New look from Lebedev but it’s no Russian revolution

The London Evening Standard's advertisements rubbishing the paper's recent past had been withdrawn by the time of its relaunch last Monday – though not before its previous editor, Veronica Wadley, had expressed her displeasure. As almost everyone realised the idiocy of the campaign, her intervention was probably unnecessary.

So coruscating were those advertisements that I had expected a completely revamped Standard. In fact, it is rather similar to the old one. The City pages, which I have long thought excellent, seem unchanged. The centre pages have been flipped around, and there are new columnists and critics. The paper has enjoyed a slight re-design. There seem to be more stories about rich and glamorous people, but these have been growing in number since Geordie Greig took over as editor a few months ago. Was I disappointed? Slightly, perhaps. The new regime does not appear to have a revolutionary concept for the Standard, though further changes may emerge in the coming months.

My fear, though, is that the most brilliant newspaper in the world might not prosper in today's London afternoon market. I know journalists have to believe that great journalism sells, and let's hope it will. The Standard, though, is hobbled by various difficulties. Afternoon paid-for newspapers have been declining everywhere. Into this rather groggy market two freesheets have been launched, one of which (incredibly to my mind) still takes stories from the Standard.

Maybe the paper's new owners have a new distribution wheeze up their sleeves. Maybe it will grow ever more sparkling. While it is competing with two freesheets, though, it will be difficult for the Standard to gain readers. It was wrong to rubbish Ms Wadley's paper because it struggled with the same almost insuperable problems. My worries are groundless as long as its new owner Alexander Lebedev does not mind bankrolling it.

scmgox@aol.com

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
News
Campbell: ‘Sometimes you have to be economical with the truth’
newsFormer spin doctor says MPs should study tactics of leading sports figures like José Mourinho
Sport
football
Life and Style
Agretti is often compared to its relative, samphire, though is closer in taste to spinach
food + drink
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Kelly Osbourne will play a flight attendant in Sharknado 2
people
News
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
people
News
The dress can be seen in different colours
i100
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
Voices
Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey VC
voicesBeware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Alexander McQueen's AW 2009/10 collection during Paris Fashion Week
fashionMeet the collaborators who helped create the late designer’s notorious spectacles
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Junior Business Systems Analyst - High Wycombe - £30,000

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Junior Business Systems Analyst role...

Guru Careers: Talent Manager

£30-35k (P/T - Pro Rata) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienc...

Sauce Recruitment: New Media Marketing Manager - EMEA - Digital Distribution

£35000 - £45000 per annum + up to £45,000: Sauce Recruitment: The Internation...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing / PR / Social Media Executive

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A thriving online media busines...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?