Last week, in a show of openness prior to the commencement of the ‘Freedom of Information Act’ next year, MPs released the details of their expenses for public review. In yesterday’s Kilburn Times, part of the Archant London Group of newspapers, Kristina Pedersen reports on the disclosure.

The paper has published tables comparing the MPs that serve the constituencies that their paper is published in: – Tony McNulty (Harrow East), Paul Boateng (Brent South), Barry Gardiner (Brent North), Gareth Thomas (Harrow West), Mark Field (Cities of London & Westminster), Karen Buck (Regent’s Park & Kensington North), Clive Soley (Ealing, Acton & Shepherd’s Bush), Glenda Jackson (Hampstead & Highgate), Iain Coleman (Putney), Sarah Teather (Brent East) and Michael Portillo (Kensington & Chelsea).

Their mini-league is interesting – although I’m not quite sure if the ‘compare and contrast’ model works on Members of Parliament. Can I really get a sense of ‘value’ from reviewing expenses against number of questions asked or number of votes attended?

What was measured?</p>

  • Number of times spoken in Parliament
  • Number of questions asked – although the ministers of the group (Boateng, Thomas & McNulty) do not ask questions.
  • Percentage of votes in Parliament attended
  • Expenses claimed 2003-04
  • Responsiveness of MP to communications sent via FaxYourMP.com
  • How safe are their seats based on their majority

(I’ll get a spready knocked up with the data and post a link here as soon as possible)

I wonder where they got all that data from…? Did the papers’ hack calculate the ranking of our local MPs in the list of all 567 MPs using the impenetrable Hansard or did they use TheyWorkForYou? I hope (I’ll even bet) it was the latter. Perhaps the paper might see fit to print a URL for the source so that its readers can continue to monitor the performance of their MP for themselves. The article does claim that “As details of MPs expenses are unveiled we ask the question you want answered…How hard does your MP work?” – But the question remains unanswered. Want to know how hard your MP works?

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. TheyWorkForYou.com – use it. It’s a great source of data on your MP. It’s not important how many times your MP has spoken in Parliament – what’s important is were they speaking about an issue that you give a shit about?

As far as I am concerned, while this data is useful in assessing the cost of one MP, it is difficult to use it to assess the value of MPs in comparison to each other.

Cross-posted to both the proxy Mp blogs I write.