Simon Carr: 'You want to throw the cat at Brooke'

First Sight
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Something unexpected happens in this TV dramatisation of Heather Brooke's campaign to open up MPs' expenses to public inspection. You find your sympathies enlisted on the wrong side of the action.

Heather Brooke never really got the credit she deserved – her lonely struggle against the Speaker and his parliamentary apparatus (and then her foray into the High Court) was genuinely heroic. But then one of the redactors in the Fees Office leaked a disc of all MPs' claims to The Daily Telegraph and she was herself edited out of the massive worldwide coverage.

Now the poor woman has to put up with a portrayal of her that is almost actionable. Having sat opposite her at a Private Eye lunch I can vouch for her as a cool, poised presence both attractive and intelligent in the best sort of American way.

In the film she is played as a bad-tempered, self-centred, self-dramatising, humourless nag lisping things like "Stop saying 'Sorry' in that stupid English way". And, pointing at a poster of Woodward and Bernstein, "Do you think they gave up at the first hurdle? Uh uh." And "What kind of banana republic am I living in here?" You want to throw the cat at her.

Brian Cox's impersonation of Speaker Michael Martin is terrific. He may be on the wrong side of the argument but he fights for his people, he struggles, he suffers, and you sympathise more with him than the forces of righteousness.

In his final angry soliloquy he says: "You know what really hurts about being called Gorbals Mick? The place I grew up made the Gorbals look like Centre Parcs!" And you feel for him in a way that was impossible at the time.

Still, very watchable.

Simon Carr is The Independent's parliamentary sketch writer