Rubbish week for: MPs... again!

What happened

Not only did they flaunt the rules they created themselves. Not only did they use tax payers' money to buy duckhouses, and human houses, and moats, and porn. Not only did they delay releasing the expenses info, defying the Freedom of Information Act, for five years, in a case that saw commons speaker Michael Martin overruled by a disgusted High Court.

Can a government really be so breathtakingly unaware of what the public wants? Can it really be so foolish as to not realise this is the right time to come clean?

They then blacked out anything deemed remotely juicy in the receipts they did show to the public.

Even though the biggest-selling broadsheet in the country had complete, uncensored copies of the same information and had spent a month making it about as clear as a newspaper can that it wasn't going to withhold any information or protect anyone in parliament. And that it would show the public every last thing they tried to hide.

It was the final straw for an exasperated public, and the final crumbling of any semblance of a positive image for the House of Commons.

Why

One can only imagine the complete idiocy that fuelled this decision. It is possible the aforementioned ducks were brought in to consult. This really was some abysmal crisis management. Any large business worth its salt has a plan in place for PR disasters like this - the government clearly didn't follow others' examples.

Were they to blame?

Can a government really be so breathtakingly unaware of what the public wants? Can it really be so foolish as to not realise this is the right time to come clean? Can it really have the audacity to let its prime minister make speeches about 'transparency' when it expresses that 'transparency' in ominous black blocks all over the information it releases?

Can anyone really be this bad at PR?

It seems that, yes, they can.

How to avoid doing the same

Listen to your audience. Pander to them, please them, and capitulate to them. If you're an organisation likely to get any kind of media coverage in cases of extreme crisis, you need to have a default plan in place as to how to repair your image, fast.

That might mean following the example of footballers and making you sure you do lots of good work around the community to ensure you have a load of positive social karma banked and ready to hit the press with to counteract any mistakes you make. Or it might mean making sure you know you're with a PR team with experience of handling damaged reputations - just in case. But whatever you do, positive action needs to be taken quickly, laden with apologies and shining with openness to better any impression of dishonesty and wrong-doing you've given.

Sometimes, it can be hard to judge when you should come clean. In cases as glaringly obvious as this one, you deserve everything you get if you overlook it.

And, as a side note, have at least a semblance of regulation in place when it comes to expenses and benefits in kind. If you give your employees the opportunity to take ridiculous advantage of company money, chances are they will. Allow them reasonable expenses, yes - but make sure you are carefully monitoring those costs and pull up anyone who's going overboard. Too many businesses are too busy watching their sales to remember that overly high costs are just as deadly an assassin.

Smarta sympathy score: 2/10

We give them this score only because we fear that if we give them any less, they'll run off with all the country's money and leave a trail of black squares so dense and opaque we'll never be able to find them again.

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