Expenses probe journalists feature in BBC drama

Journalists involved the historic exposure of MPs’ expenses excesses will be immortalised on film in a one-off drama for BBC Four.

On Expenses centres around the efforts of Heather Brooke, the freelance journalist whose dogged pursuit of Freedom of Information Requests directly led to the Telegraph’s exposure of MP’s expenses claims last year.

Anna Maxwell Martin plays Brooke, while Brian Cox plays the man many journalists viewed as the villain of the piece – then House of Commons Speaker Michael Martin.

The only other journalist who is mentioned in the list of credits released by the BBC today is the Daily Telegraph’s Ben Leapman, who like Brooke was involved in fighting through the courts against House of Commons attempts to block FoI requests about expenses. He is being played by Jeremy Swift.

Director Simon Cellan Jones said: “Everyone knows about the Telegraph scoop, but this is the story behind it and we wanted to tell it. It isn’t a party political piece – it’s the story behind the story.”

According to the BBC, the drama will show how Brooke took her case “all the way to the High Court, Brooke won the case against the House of Commons – but heartbreakingly lost the scoop”.

Jones said: “I think this is going to set the story straight about how the news story came about. It also shows the lengths to which the House of Commons suppressed the story in the interest of trying to protect the MPs.

“I hope it will evoke a mixture of shock and laughter. It’s quite a surreal story in that the people who voted in the Freedom of Information Act were the very people that tried to get themselves exempt from it.”

It was Brooke’s successful FoI challenge that led MPs to be forced to published redacted versions of their expenses.

The Daily Telegraph paid £110,000 for a computer hard drive containing all the unredacted details of the MPs’ claims which led to its series of expenses scoops last year.

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