On Expenses (2010)

TV Movie  |  Drama  |  23 February 2010 (UK)
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Story describing journalist Heather Brooke's attempts to make British MP's disclose their expenses, under the Freedom of Information Act.



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Heather Brooke
Michael Martin - Speaker of the House of Commons
Andrew Walker
Alan Keen
Sir Stuart Bell MP
Christopher Good ...
Speaker's Secretary
Hugh Tomlinson
Ben Leapman
House of Commons Counsel
Naomi Frederick ...
Personal Assistant
Gerrard McArthur ...
Interior Designer
Rod Arthur ...
Barry Long MP
David Sibley ...
Council Official


In 2005 dogged,recently-married American journalist Heather Brooke,having taken on her local council over better street lighting and won, publishes her book on the Freedom of Information Act, meeting barrister Hugh Tomlinson at the signing. Her next mission is to expose the hidden rights of Members of parliament,especially their expenses,which makes newly-appointed Speaker of the House Michael Martin very nervous. After all he claims for everything he can. Although his legal advisor Andrew Walker tells him this is Heather's right, Martin refuses to permit the disclosure of MP's expenses and, with Hugh as her mouthpiece,Heather forces a tribunal and, whilst not entirely successful, this does lead to the eventual exposure of MP's dishonesty as the story breaks in the press. Written by don @ minifie-1

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23 February 2010 (UK)  »

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User Reviews

The Expenses Scandal Brought to Live
25 April 2010 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

The expenses scandal has rocked the political world in Britain, with the largest number of MPs to quit Parliament since World War 2 and trust in politicians is at an all time low. It almost led to a vote of no-confidence in the Speaker Michael Martin and was force to quit, the first time this happened for 300-years. It lead to a even lower turn-out in the European Elections of 2009 and possibly have an impact on the 2010 General Election. And the public would not have found out about all this if it wasn't for the Freedom of Information Act, the Daily Telegraph new coverage and the campaign work of Heather Brookes.

On Expenses focuses on two of main people in the scandal, the American campaigner Heather Brookes (Anna Maxwell Martin) and Speaker Michael Martin MP (Brian Cox), both fighting different ends of the scandal. Brookes being an American knew everything about the Freedom of Information Act seeing America had a long standing political culture using it, so decides to fight the British Political establishment by making a requires for expenses information. Martin and his staff decide to fight this tooth and nail, claiming reasons like privacy, trying amend the law to exempt MPs and fighting every decision in tribunals and the courts. This is a bitter fight where the Parliamentary authorities were completely out of step with the public mood.

This is a stark commentary of the actions of Parliament when this scandal, where they completely ignored the facts, that they were so dogmatic in their approach where they thought everything was perfectly reasonable. Michael Martin was expertly played by Brian Cox as a man from a poor background who ends up getting sucked up by the system, symbolised as a party man and enjoys the trappings of the high live. But the programme makers of the film threw this all away when their tried to make Martin out as a reformer and scapegoat, when in real live he was the man who resisted change and someone who is known as one of the worst speakers in Parliamentary history. Heather Brookes is made out to be a very pigheaded woman who was so determined to fight the system. Anna Maxwell Martin was a decent actress, playing these characteristics pretty well. But more could have been shown.

It was quiet a marvel that this programme was able to be made so soon after the scandal. The bonus was that all the information would still be fresh in the minds of the audience. But this is a double edge sword because not all the information has been revealed and some of the details have been missed out. There were certainly some areas that were skipped out.

Whilst this is an interesting programme and well done considering it only lasted an hour, the tones is a little off. There is a bit too much overt humour when it could have worked very well as a serious drama about Parliament and political activities. But some certain scenes felt very off like in the beginning when Martin is playing the bagpipes in his office and Brooke dancing in a studio. The direction by Simon Cellan-Jones was also weak. He had good actors to work with, but someone like Brain Cox rarely gives a bad performance. Cellan-Jones could have easily shot the programme like an episode of The West Wing, giving it an effective political drama style. But Cellan-Jones looked like an amateur cameraman, moving the camera all over the place when he didn't have to. It looked like he was trying to be Paul Greengrass (whom shaky-cam style is often criticised). He just need to point the camera in the right direction and let the actors do their thing, but On Expenses was a project which was over directed. Remember: keep it simple.

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