Austin Mitchell: The Telegraph has left us all in the lap of the sods

Labour view

The past seven days have been a complete disaster. Yesterday, I wanted to go to the Fees Office in the Commons. I couldn't get in, because of the queue of MPs wanting to pay their expenses back

The fact is this information was going to come out anyway in July, with all the addressees and certain private details redacted, but instead all our private addresses are now in the hands of journalists whom I wouldn't trust not to flog them. We are in the lap of the sods.

David Cameron has undoubtedly won the competition between the party leaders to see which can look toughest, but that is because the Telegraph, a Conservative newspaper, has colluded with him. Look at yesterday's centre pages crowing about how brilliant he has been. He has looked brilliant because they have helped him, when what he has done is protect his shadow cabinet and pick on the old guard.

Now the story has passed from the Telegraph to a less intelligent rank of journalists who are using it as something to throw back in all our faces because they don't understand it.

We had poor old Ming Campbell condemned for claiming the cost of a lavatory brush for his second home. I switched on the television and heard somebody suggest that he should have brought a lavatory brush with him down from Edinburgh.

It's a no-win situation for MPs, because whatever we do about it, we're damned. Gordon Brown's proposal for an attendance allowance is half-baked, because the public won't accept a siutation where we are being paid just to turn up. If they scrapped the allowances and put it on our pay that would not be acceptable to the public either.

There is a lot of anger about, because people are doing badly in the economic downturn, people are losing their jobs, and the spectacle of greedy MPs helping themselves – and some have been greedy – is very annoying. I understand that. I just do not know what to do about it.

Austin Mitchell is Labour MP for Great Grimsby

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