Sunday, 21 June 2009

In touch and out of touch

It has struck me over the last few days how much in common the two big news stories have – the Iran elections and the publishing of the MPs’ accounts. We are hearing that the opposition supporters in Iran are keeping ahead of the authorities using the latest internet communications – facebook and twitter. This is the only way they can be heard in a country which apparently has restrictions on freedom of the press and information.

Now look at the freedom we have here at home: the press is free and we have a freedom of information act. But look what we get. The full list of MPs’ expenses has been published but was first redacted. Redacted? Is that really a word? My spell checker recognises it. I’ve just googled it – and found there was a film released in 2007 called Redacted. On reviewer said “it could be the worst movie I’ve ever seen” and it grossed $25,628 on its opening weekend (Titanic took $28,638,131.) Not surprisingly, there’s a lot of debate about the word currently, but it doesn’t appear to be generally used till now. My OED defines it as ‘put into literary form, arrange for publication’ and literary is defined as ‘of... written composition esp. of the kind valued for quality of form.’ Not really the word I’d use to provide clear information about anything.

Do MPs and the parliamentary office believe that publishing this information in this form will help? And looking at some of the details of the expenses – both the official redacted (!) figures and the leaked ones in the press – do they really think they are reasonable? How out of touch!

You can see the redacted expense claims for all MPs at here.

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