The recommendations for reform of MPs’ expenses were hardly radical. They would have kept their circa £23,000 of expenses for a second home in London - and won greater public respect – in return for taking a few blows such as tougher auditing, a halving of the allowance for those in greater London and the end of free furniture and new kitchens.
For a majority to reject the proposals yesterday was the equivalent of a giant V-sign at the media and – much more importantly – the voters.
Much has already been made of the fact that 33 ministers voted against reform. (Including Caroline Flint, Andy Burnham, Jacqui Smith, Paul Murphy and Shaun Woodward). While the Tory frontbench, and all Liberal Democrats, supported change.
An equally fascinating fact is how many cabinet ministers stayed away in the knowledge that the proposals were doomed.
Take a bow: Gordon Brown, Alistair Darling,
James Purnell, Alan Johnson, Ed Balls, Hazel Blears, David Miliband, Ed Miliband, Douglas Alexander, Geoff Hoon, Hilary Benn, Ruth Kelly and John Hutton. So much for setting an example.
In fact, the only cabinet members who supported the measures (designed to save the reputation of the House of Commons, bear in mind – the words of Nick Harvey MP, not mine) were these seven: Ed Balls, James Purnell, Des Browne, Yvette Cooper, John Denham, Jack Straw and Harriet Harman.
The prime minister today professed disappointment that the move towards greater austerity had been defeated. Come off it.
Sorry, Des Browne supported reform. I forgot he was still in the cabinet. James Purnell and Ed Balls did as well. Apologies.