Thursday, 15 September 2011
Knaves and Liars
“Out of six hundred and fifty-eight members,” said John Wade almost none could be found “who did not consider government a mere job, and the public a goose, out of which it was the business of every political knave to pluck a feather.” No, he wasn’t writing about today’s politicians but those in the House before the great Reform Act of 1832
But it could equally sum up the attitude of many today. According to the Committee on Standards in Public Life the percentage of people in England who think MPs are dedicated to working well for the public, dropped from 46% to 26%.
The main concern emerging from the survey was that MPs manifested “self serving” behavior and this overshadowed all other issues.
It doesn’t take a PhD in politics to workout why the public has such a low opinion of their Member of Parliament. It can be summed up in one word “expenses.”
The expenses scandal of 2009 shook the trust in politicians. Little wonder, with members of both Houses of Parliament going to prison, others awaiting trial and many others having to refund expenses dubiously claimed.
The watchdog's survey of 1,900 people was carried out in early 2011; 19 months after the MPs' expenses scandal broke.
Since 2004 there has been a decline in confidence by the public in those holding public confidence but the trend accelerated post 2008.
Not only do the public lack confidence in Westminster politicians but more believe that they are incompetent a drop from 36% in 2008 to 26% in 2010 and those that think they are liars down to a fifth from the quarter that held the view in 2008.
Surprise, surprise, those who supported one of the three main parties were more likely to believe standards were high among politicians.
This survey looked simply at Members of Parliament. It would be interesting to see what the attitude of the public would be to Assembly Members who have been more proactive on issues of pay and rations.
They took the decision to establish an independent remuneration board to set salaries and allowances. Thus taking the toxic issue away from the previous system when they decide these issues for themselves.
Despite this people do tend to have a low opinion of politicians - a strange phenomena in a democracy. After all it’s the voter who decides on the representative. If they’re not up to the mark, why choose them in the first place.
Blame the voter not the politician, I say. It’s like kicking the cat when things go wrong in life.