Blimey. It looks like the Internets won

UPDATE: If you approve of what we did this week, and what to help make sure we can still do it in the future, please pledge to support us:

The vote on concealing MPs’ expenses has been cancelled by the government!

In other words – we won!

This is a huge victory not just for transparency, it’s a bellwether for a change in the way politics works. There’s no such thing as a good day to bury bad news any more, the Internet has seen to that.

Over 7000 people joined a Facebook group, they sent thousands of emails to over 90% of all MPs. Hundreds of thousands of people found out about the story by visiting TheyWorkForYou to find something they wanted to know, reading an email alert, or simply discovered what was going on whilst checking their Facebook or Twitter pages. Almost all of this happened, from nowhere, within 48 hours, putting enough pressure on Parliament to force change.

Make no mistake. This is new, and it reflects the fact that the Internet generation expects information to be made available, and they expect to be able to make up their own minds, not be spoon fed the views of others. This campaign was always about more than receipts, it was about changing the direction of travel, away from secrecy and towards openness.

Today we stopped moving in the wrong direction. Tomorrow we start moving the right way. Sign up to our news mailing list (box on the right) to get updates on what mySociety gets up to.


  1. Congrats Tom. Great work from you and the rest of the mySociety team. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a campaign be this effective over such a short space of time (the Obama campaign doesn’t count as it was a long-running thing!).

    For what it’s worth, you can read my letter here:

    It’s quite amazing to think that there were hundreds or even thousands of people putting across the exact same message to the government – and it evidently scared the hell out of them!

  2. Thankyou for finding this. I cant believe it was kept so hush hush to even get to this point. (well I can of course).
    I hope this will serve as a reminder that they do indeed work for us and that its not just about oppinion polls and elections, we can have a more granular say without complex referendums.
    Nice work!

  3. Well done everyone who contributed to and also led the fight! Are there any metrics that can be pulled to illustrate how effective particular mechanisms were and how politicians were influenced by them?

  4. Excellent news – and it just goes to show what a campaign like this can achieve in such a short period of time.

    As we approach a general election MPs will need to care about this kind of thing more and more.

  5. Fabulous news. Well done everyone. Now I am left wondering why the main news outlets all ignored/dismissed this story. They have had days to raise this – it has to rank as a high public-interest story – and yet I only found out from this site.

    I sincerely hope it was our efforts that made a difference but listening to the fall-out on the radio, it also sounds like it might be more to do with party politics.

    Anyway, will be keen to get more involved now.

  6. Don’t drop the ball… I wouldn’t trust this conniving bunch to re-introduce this under some other guise.

  7. Great job in fighting to prevent Browns attempt to hide how MPs waste our money, however the war will not be won until ever single MPs expenses is fully published and available online for us all to see, From a milk bill to new kitchens all information must be available.

    Keep up the good work.

  8. Great news – but this is just one reminder for parliament re who they work for. Suggest you write to your MP and in the nicest possible way say “I’m keeping my eye on you” – follow their progress on a few (?) votes and let them know your opinion. I’m new to this so if I’m teaching egg-sucking etc., forgive me.

  9. Cracking result folks!

    I see this as the first of many victories that we need to win and will win.

    Community can triumph over control, people can triumph over power and society can win over self-interest.

    Keep up the great work, and thanks for being such an amazing stand for a peaceful, sustainable and happy future.

  10. Well that is good news.But I still do not trust them,as Unixman said.And these “polititians” wonder why the voters are voting for extream parties,it is they that is pushing them in that direction.
    My late father used to say that the British Governament could pluck a chicken (the voters) without it squawking,but me thinks this time the chicken woke up and squawked.

  11. It is a pity that it took a campaign such as this to force those in power to act decently. I look forward to being part of further attempts to persuade our “masters” to act in our interests rather than their own. Well done!

  12. Brilliant … and ThanQ …. well done Tom …. for being the hub to inform us and galvanize us all into action! What a great feeling ….

    Have had to sign more petitions in the past couple of years than in a whole life time up to now … with the present ‘Government’ !!!! And … yes…. at last … it seems …. a medium which they will listen to!



  13. Well done – my (Conservative) MP replied and said that he would vote against it. He won’t need to now.

    Excellent news.

  14. Fantastic! Thank you so much, Tom, Sam, Matt, and everyone at MySociety. And thank you, too, to the Guardian, and to the Twitterati. First Obama, then this?! The democratic cup overflows!

  15. Fantastic news – as a result of this website I wrote to my MP (first time ever) and this is his reply-:

    Thank you for your e-mail of 20 January about the vote in Parliament tomorrow concerning Members’ allowances.

    Had there been a vote, I would have voted against the Government and for transparency but we have just heard that the Government has now backed down and there will be no vote on the issue.

    With best wishes,

    Yours sincerely,

    Dominic Grieve QC MP

  16. This is great news, and another step towards regaining our democracy.

    Although maybe I’m too cynical but I would not be surprised to see this presented again hidden amongst other, barely related, proposals.

  17. Well done, and I am glad I particated, but let’s keep vigilant for another pitch further down the line.

    Regards to all.

  18. A small step on a long journey. Maybe we are heading to the day when our elected representatives remember that they are elected to represent us, not to govern us.

    Well done to everybody that contributed in any small way.

  19. This has made my day and well done to all concerned!

    I don’t wish to lower the mood but now what chance of some action against the Government’s disastrous response to the economic crisis?

    This is the biggest story of our times and yet I don’t see any meaningful protest at the Government’s actions by either the Opposition or the electorate.

  20. CorrespondentOnline

    Thanks for your efforts. Very well done. Please keep up the momentum by taking up another cause, such as the disgraceful behaviour over MP’s expenses, and the greedy Speaker. Make them cut allowances, keep to sensible rules, publish everything and censure this Speaker and his sleazy cronies.

  21. Great work & excellent news! I’d just come here to double check who was my MP prior to emailing him about the expenses vote. Which I now don’t need to do. Now how about a campaign to force the Speaker to resign as he is one of the leaders of the ‘snout in the trough’ campaign?

  22. An excellent result without any doubt whatsoever!!

    Now we could do with an online campaign against Big Brother Brown’s Database State, his National Identity Register, not to mention their attempts to control the internet by logging every Email sent, web site visited etc.

    Would we have achieved the same success if they had already introduced those measures?

    Best Regards

    Mike K

  23. It is excellent news – but as I said on the other thread, it ain’t over ’til it’s over …..

    Beckett and others continue to trot out the line about security (now not necessarily of MPs themselves, but of people supplying, or doing work for MPs), disproportionate cost. There’s still no adequate response to why the quite reasonable imposition of the full disclosure requirements on other public bodies should be avoided by MPs; note that they are still permitted to a) not provide receipts for claims under £25, b) get these benefits free of tax, and c) get to keep the proceeds of any capital appreciation (whether that’s free of tax or not isn’t clear) of the (arguably) necessary 2nd home, or improvements made.

    Why, if this was such an ordinary matter of business (the tabling of the motion and the proposed Order last Thursday), was it to be brought into effect so quickly, and on the basis of cross-party agreement that would appear to be absent?

    This one is likely not to go away, but we should be able (and prepared) to battle further – see this from the Beeb and the clip below.

    Is this an end to the issue?

    No. The government has axed the vote on exempting MPs’ expenses from the FOI Act but has not said all receipts will now be published. Gordon Brown said the government sought cross-party support and “would continue to consult on that matter”. MPs will get a free vote on changes to the Green Book – the Commons rule book on expenses. Also, the chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, Sir Christopher Kelly, could still launch his own inquiry into the pay and expenses system. He delayed it last year and his office says a new inquiry was still a possibility. Ms Harman will appear before his committee in February.

    Harman is quoted:

    But Commons leader Harriet Harman told the BBC: “We didn’t think that it was right that there should be 1.2 million receipts, every single receipt for every ream of paper that’s brought, should be actually scanned and then published because it would be a blizzard of information at great expense.

    “I think the public are entitled to know there are clear rules, that there’s robust audit and those rules are obeyed, and they’re entitled to know how much each MP is spending on what. And that’s what we’d agreed to do.”

  24. It seems to be a case of continuing muddle upon muddle.

    A ‘robust’ audit is well overdue – and so is a much more rigorous scrutiny of what is claimed – for which the details need to be publicly available. It is still a very open question as to what kind of additional living expenses should be paid for, and reasonable and adequate staffing costs.

    But Commons leader Harriet Harman told the BBC publishing all 1.2 million receipts would have created “a blizzard of information at great expense” and new proposals being debated on Thursday would provide a “robust audit” of claims.

    Asked in the Commons if all receipts would now be published, she said she had not yet been able to speak to the House of Commons authorities – who are responsible for holding the information- as to “how they intend to proceed”.

    However she said the government would proceed with a plan to publish expenses claims under 26 headings as it would “provide information to members of the public without it having been requested” for all MPs.

  25. Fantastic!

    On a slightly differnt note, another big win for transparency would be to force all companies trading on the London Stock Exchange to produce XBRL versions of their financial data.

    XBRL is a royalties-free open standard that allows companies’ financial performance to be made very visible and transparent – basically means comparing apples with apples and makes it very difficult to manipulate financial reporting in annual reports, etc.

    The SEC want to do it in the US, it would be a massive step forward for investors and shareholders.

    More here:

  26. You wouldn’t like to help out with stopping their attempts to take over the role of parents to actually parent would you? They’re pulling a fast one, with a one month consultation rather than the standard 12 weeks and NOT telling stakeholders like they’re meant to and a really nasty smear campaign in the press.

  27. This is excellent news. I wrote to my MP and got no response, no surprise there, he’s an under-secretary. Still a victory for the governed.

  28. Well done people

    It seems as if ‘WE’ need to keep an eye on these MP’s and let them know that They Work for ‘us’, not themselves

  29. We stopped them reducing freedom of information but we need to work to extend freedom of information:

    Publicly Owned Companies Petition

    “We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to support a change to the law to make companies owned two thirds or more by public authorities subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2000.”

  30. I was just gearing up to write a letter to my MP and blog, and then I read the good news! Great work. I’ll still ask him how he would have voted and present the case for transparency anyway!

  31. Well done, great bit of work, and a brilliant demonstration of the internet in action. I’d never have heard about this issue without the blogs, and wouldn’t have contacted my MP without the easy-to-use ‘they work for you’ interface. Even better, he replied within 12 hours.

    I think Hazel Blears is currently trying to get people engaged in the democratic process, maybe you should send her a report on how this all worked. Probably not the result she had in mind!

  32. Suffragium MCMLXXXVIII

    Well done staff and fellow citizens ! What a great testimony to the power of people to rule there own affairs via those that were chosen to serve not themselves, there ideology, there party but there voters.

    I believe voting on matters like MP’S expenses should be put to the vote in any democratic society however because it is part of the stationary we give to our elected representatives, the vote should not go to them alone, it should have been put to that very good method of a national referendum. Something seldom used in The UK but greatly used and benefited from in Switzerland.

    This was not going to be put into the public referendum thus a parliamentary vote would not just be anti-democratic but a grotesque parody to that treasured prize. There for I am glad the people of this nation woke up, and thanks to the amplification of democracy by the internet (watch the government try and take this away) the public whip struck our representatives back into there places, there place were they should always be, serving us !

    I cant help but also think this is evidence to the fact that whatever tune the U.S plays the UK dances too. After President Of The United States Of America Mr. Barrack Obama said that transpansy was key to public/government relations our government back down. However this is good, since these wise words would have embarrassed our government if they did keep there exspenses private. Only a guilty and greed government would keep this sort of information secret.

    Now that this credit crunch has sunk in, I wonder why the government were scrambling to hide there squandering after all – this should be good.

    We are back in the saddle – A victory to democracy !

    Thank you everybody it makes one proud to be British again !

  33. Congrats to all involved, maybe the government will soon start to realise that it’s supposed to be answerable to its employees. I did love the rank hypocrisy of it all – Jacqui Smith trying to subject us to insane levels of surveillance while simultaneously refusing to disclose what she does with the money we give her.

    Wouldn’t say I’m proud just yet but it’s a step in the right direction…

  34. I still don’t get just why the taxpayer is paying these expenses anyway. If I need a new kitchen, it’s up to me. If I need a new kitchen in a temporary flat I am renting to do my job… it’s still up to me.

    I have an idea about all these admin support jobs they fill with friends, relatives and lovers, too. Why not use the existing civil servants that might be getting made redundant? Allocate each MP one or two civil servants from the pool and an office to work from when they get elected and there is no need for them to have allowances at all!!!

  35. Hang on, how did you work out that more headings, more details, would be not publishing them? I presume you are referring to the receipts publication info….

    Sorry, but thought the campaign went off half cocked and the standard email is a real turn off too.

    Oh, and to the great comment about using civil servants who may be made redundant – how could they work for a MP aligned to a Party and remain neutral?

    Whilst does some good work I cannot commend you on this one simply because I do not believe that you have put forward a clear, accurate case and instead have tried to jump on an ill informed bandwagon.

    Though I do think expenses should be published, it is after all public money. Just, please, raise your game again.

  36. Congratulations, but I am inclined to agree with Dominic Pinto that the battle is not completely won while Gordon Brown is “continuing to consult, and if MPs get a free vote on changes to the Green Book, unless those changes are to bring the Commons Rules in line with all normally accepted rules on expenses.
    I have sometimes wondered why Parliament doesn’t maintain a pool of well equipped flats and assign them to MPs who have to maintain a second home in London, thus controlling expenses claimed for rent and replacing all costs for repeated refurbishment of flats with upkeep and repair expenses. The flats would have to be of high standard, and then those MPs who wished for even more splendid accommodation and furnishings could make arrangements out of their own pockets, i.e.could no longer claim mortgage and other expenses from the tax payer.

  37. :O)

    Well done everyone!

    Bloody FANTASTIC job……REAL Democracy in action.

    Now all we need is a General Election. ;O)

  38. Well done – a fantastic victory that proves ‘people power’ can still sway the Government.

    Wonder if anyone can help us, at Tax Credit Casualties, with our campaign?

    Brilliant news for democracy in this country.


  39. Well done all…its not the sixe of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog that counts…and we proved it:o)

    Just always remember the story of Gordon and the Donkey:
    A young man named Gordon bought a donkey from an old farmer for £100.00. The farmer agreed to deliver the donkey the next day, but when thefarmer drove up he said, ‘Sorry son, but I have some bad news… thedonkey is on my truck, but unfortunately he’s dead.’ Gordon replied, ‘Well then, just give me my money back.’ The farmer said, ‘I can’t do that, because I’ve spent it already.’ Gordon said, ‘OK then, well just unload the donkey anyway.’ The farmer asked, ‘What are you going to do with him?’ Gordon answered, ‘I’m going to raffle him off.’ To which the farmer exclaimed, ‘Surely you can’t raffle off a dead donkey!’ But Gordon, with a wicked smile on his face said, ‘Of course I can, Ijust won’t bother to tell anybody that he’s dead.’ A month later the farmer met up with Gordon and asked, ‘What happenedwith that dead donkey?’ Gordon said, ‘I raffled him off, sold 500 tickets at two pounds apiece and made a huge, fat profit!!’ Totally amazed, the farmer asked, ‘Didn’t anyone complain that you hadstolen their money because you lied about the donkey being dead?’ To which Gordon replied, ‘The only guy who found out about the donkeybeing dead was the raffle winner when he came to claim his prize. So Igave him his £2 raffle ticket money back plus an extra £200, which asyou know is double the going rate for a donkey, so he thought I wasgreat guy!!’ Gordon grew up and eventually became the Chancellor of the Exchequerand then Prime Minister – and no matter how many times he lied, or howmuch money he stole from the British voters, as long as he gave themback some of the stolen money, most of them, unfortunately, stillthought he was a great guy. The moral of this story is that, if you think Gordon is about to playfair, think again my friend, because you’ll be better off flogging adead donkey.

  40. From “The Times” online blog:-

    “I mean, would you want to show the public every single receipt you claimed for?”

    Why not? I have to, this month when I complete my tax return. Sorry? but are MPs somehow exempt from the rules, the rest of us have abide by?

    But would you like HMRC to display your tax return details on the front page of your local paper?

  41. well done and thanks for publicising this; I did get a reply from my M.P. today (by post – on their normal expensive stationery – why? ) – but it was so banal there’s no point putting it up here.

  42. Errm – I have only skimmed this thread (I did write to my MP) but why can’t they keep accounts like any normal person (well, self-employed or expense claimer). The accounts have to be submitted regularly and the receipts have to be kept to justify entries on the account (as one has to do for tax deductible expenses for HMRC). The accounts should be publishable yearly (annexed to the MP’s interests disclosure?) and the details in them can be tailored to prevent personal information that may cause security problems out (like home addresses that may be on receipts). Accounts are audited by an appropriate body with appropriate sanctions for failure to have kept them properly. I don’t think anyone could find any personal details from my accounts but would see and know what I had bought (and generally from where or whom) and they are all linked to receipts. Simple and possibly effective – or have I missed something? And it also has the benefit that the underused partner signed on as a researcher will have something to do at last…

  43. Great news! Its about time the government started taking notice of the people more.
    Like you have said the internet opens many opportunities for the government to be much more involved with the people.
    They should utilise this invaluable resource. And maybe with this first small step, they will!

    Here’s to a brighter future! =D

  44. Just to let you know that I’m just off to speak to my MP at her local ‘surgery’ and you can bet that THIS will be on my agenda……I will let you know what she has to say for herself.

  45. Well……..I spoke to my local MP and she was gracious but unbending about MP’s expenses.

    She kept on about having to justify buying sheets for her bed to journalists……..I did try to point out that if she bought them out of her own money, the journalists wouldn’t have a story and that I wouldn’t consider trying to put something on my expenses which wasn’t ‘work-related’.

    Point NOT taken, I can advise. (sigh)

  46. Its about time the government took notice of their masters, that’s the electorate.
    Its time that all MP’s & Lords had to produce their expenses on a monthly basis.

    Any MP with nothing to hide shouldn’t mind doing this.

    The more Harman wants to hide her expenses and those of others, the more dishonest she looks.

    Lets have an open government with nothing to hide after all they live on OUR money.

  47. john b griffiths

    Unlike some of your incoming letters, my MP replied to me on 21st Jan, before the U-turn! He declared that he had nothing to hide, but finds it “sad” to receive letters which are insulting by inference, and finds MPs (not some, or most) to be open, honest and hardworking, despite Conway etc! He also hinted that he would not have voted for “some absurdly expensive and bureacratic system (that’s rich) that entails copying/scanning millions of receipts for every item purchased by every MP.

  48. My MP (Kerry McCarthy) also replied to me before the vote, a very long and detailed email, discussing how she felt the real issue at stake was one of party politics – and assuring me that she herself does not claim for expenses under £25 and that her second home in London is very small. I very much appreciated her reply even though she didn’t say she’d vote against the bill (didn’t say she’d be voting for it either, mind).

  49. I would like to think that your campaign was decisive in the u-turn by Brown et al but I doubt it. He reneged on the legislative change purely because Cameron whipped his whipping boys into the “no” lobby. Don’t take this as a victory either as the oily miss Harperson will be back with another attempt, rest assured, and next time she will succeed.

  50. Well Done!

    What a fantastic way to get this message across to the government over their expenses situation. I wrote to our MP, Gordon Prentice to let him know that the story that MP does not stand for Member of Parliament, but Money Pincher is being spread across this nation, via the Internet. For given what they got away with the money pinching last year, this cannot continue.

    So pleased to learn that the campaign has succeeded, and thanks for all the effort that has been done to see that it has.


    Janet B

  51. Hi Tom,
    congratulations on your recent success, keep up the good work.

    How about you create a site where MPs can post their expenses, if they have nothing to hide then they have nothing to fear. Keep the interface nice and simple, let them use it as an expenses calculator so they know how much to claim, just let us have a look at it.
    Democracy only works if people take part.

  52. Well done all!
    But not surprising I believe it was prophesied in the bible.
    “Blessed are the geeks for they will internet the world.”

  53. Beverley Wallace

    Maybe facebook needs to form its own political party the true voice of the people. It has more members and can speak directly to and listen to more of the population than any tv channel.

  54. Lauren Jane Stanyon

    I am trying to organise a peaceful political protest outside the Houses Of Parliament. If you are interested in joining and taking action please join the facebook event, and come along!

    Protest about MP’s expenses!
    Because the government need to know that clearing out their moats is not the job of the taxpayer!
    Venue:Outside the Houses of Parliament
    Time:12:00PM Friday, May 15th

  55. Tigi Hair Care

    Well done.

    For once I feel as though the people have a voice, which is being heard.