Bridges' expenses: Time for leaker to come forward and get helpby Tim Watkin
The Bridges expense leak inquiry will have to balance the wellbeing of someone who might have mental health issues with the integrity of the parliamentary system. One way or another, it's all rather sad, writes Tim Watkin.
Speaking at parliament this morning Mr Bridges, in echoes of Labour's youth camp debacle, said he took expert advice on how to deal with the mental health issues claimed by the texter. Presumably, he took legal and political advice from his colleagues as well.
Responsibly, he forwarded the text to police and they investigated. They reported back that they had identified the person, that while there were "wellbeing issues" those did not extend to "safety issues" and they expected the parliamentary investigation to proceed.
It may seem odd to many that the police will not tell Mr Bridges or Mr Mallard who sent the text. But police operations are properly independent of parliament and the person's privacy must be respected by police.
That does not mean Parliamentary Service is bound to stop its work. As Bridges says, the second issue alongside the person's wellbeing is "the integrity of the parliamentary system".
Legitimate questions should be asked about why a QC-led inquiry was needed in the first place. This was the most minor of leaks - public information released just a few days before it was to be made public anyway. The inquiry is a mallet being used to crack a nut and risks a chilling effect amongst those who may feel honour-bound to leak more serious information.
But, seemingly unintentionally, the person who sent this text has now raised the stakes. They told Mr Bridges they had leaked the information because they found him "arrogant"; so it's now clear the motivation was political and personal, not in the public interest.
Now, there are only a couple of options in terms of what really happened. One, this is someone impersonating a National MP. That is cynical politics if so and would reflect very badly on that person and who they represent. To play the mental health card if it is not genuine is in the worst taste; the seriousness of mental health issues have been underlined in the days since this text was sent with Greg Boyed's death.
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