Andrew McDonald obituary | Members’ expenses
When the MP spending scandal exploded in 2009, my friend Andrew McDonald, who died at the age of 59 after a long illness, was accused of cleaning up.
As the first Director General of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa), he played a leading role in the creation and implementation of a new set of rules, removing the self-monitoring role of parliament and introducing greater transparency.
Born in Barking, Essex, to Eileen (née Sharkey), a former nurse, and Albert McDonald, a public servant, Andrew was the youngest of five children. Growing up in Hornchurch, he attended Emerson Park School and, much to his parents’ pride, won a place at St John’s College at the University of Oxford to read modern history.
After doctoral studies at the University of Bristol in 1986 he followed his father to the Public Record Office (PRO), where he spent the first half of his distinguished 28-year career in public service.
Andrew moved to Whitehall in 2000, as Director of Courts Reform and Acting Director General of the Office of Public Wardship of the Lord Chancellor’s Department before being appointed as the first Director of Constitution in the new Department of Constitutional Affairs. (DCA) in 2003.
In this role, he played a leading role in the implementation of FOI legislation across government and was subsequently, while serving as Director General of Government Skills, deployed to as senior advisor to Sir Hayden Phillips’ review of political party financing.
Andrew took on the role of Ipsa in 2009 with a deep belief that his task was to help restore public confidence in the work of their parliamentary representatives so damaged by the spending issue. This was not enough, however, to prevent the often bitter attacks by MPs themselves, with one describing its regulations as a “bureaucratic quagmire of irrational rules” and another comparing it to “a Stasi operation”.
A different kind of pressure, however, was to have a deeper impact. In 2007 Andrew was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and six years later was told he also suffered from incurable prostate cancer, forcing his retirement from Ipsa and the public service for medical reasons.
It was a devastating blow to a dedicated public servant, but only served to redouble Andrew’s determination to make a difference elsewhere. He has been involved in charitable work, serving on several boards of directors, notably as chairman of Scope between 2014 and 2019.
He also conducted a number of personal campaigns. One, shaped by its own medical treatment, called for improvements in the way healthcare professionals communicate with their patients.
With his rapidly deteriorating health, Andrew has spent most of his last 12 months writing. His book on constitutional reform and national identity, Changing States, Changing Nations, was published earlier this year, and this summer he completed two more – a personal story of his later years and a novel based on the life of a war pilot.
Passionate about sports, Andrew was even able to spend a day watching cricket at Lord’s (he was a member of the MCC) and then seeing his beloved Spurs lose to Arsenal in the North London derby in the last few weeks of his life. .
He was a devout Catholic and never felt bitter about having to face two serious issues. “I don’t feel angry about it,” he told The Observer in 2014, just before leaving Ipsa. “You have to manage the cards that have been dealt to you. “
In 1992, he married Louise London; they divorced in 2017 but remained close friends. He is survived by their daughter, Juliet, and by two sisters, Janet and Linda, and two brothers, Peter and Hugh.