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Trust in Parliament Died When Ideology Died

Posted on Friday, April 9, 2010 in constitutional reform, government, Politics

Roy Hattersley is right. We can say ‘good riddance’ to this disgrace of a parliament, after the expenses scandal, cash-for-lobbying, the undemocratic railroading of the Digital Economy Bill and so many other deliberate failures:

Events in the House of Commons are to blame. Even in the golden age of Gladstone and Disraeli, Members of Parliament were unpopular. Today they are held in contempt. The one hope for this year’s place in political history is that it will mark a turning point — the year when the rehabilitation of democracy began. Perhaps things had to get this bad before they got better.

The superficial explanation for the voters’ antipathy to politicians is summed up in one damning word: corruption. It is impossible — believe me, I have tried — to convince the general public of the basic truth that we have a fundamentally honest Parliament and most of its members are men and women of principle. But the expenses scandal and the humiliating television pictures of former ministers touting for work were regarded only as confirmation of what the people already knew. The past five years have reinforced the belief that politicians have no firm convictions. The question that overshadows all the parties is: “But what do they stand for?”

Easy: they stand for power, gaining it and retaining it at all costs, and New Labour has turned that into its entire raison d’etre. This is not what people want. Except with the voting system we have, where is the genuine pressure to force a tipping point? Hattersley thinks it’s already happened, but the signing of the Digital Economy Bill into law today suggests we’re far from one. When all parties are competing for a small number of floating voters in a very few marginal constituencies why should MPs care one iota what we think or want?  The electorate wants a return to ideology, but even an unprecedentedly large social media campaign couldn’t bring that about. Labour dropped its commitment to a referendum on voting reform; the Tories have no interest in reform at all, so I personally have no idea at all where this corruption is going to end. The likeliest immediate outcome will be a growth in apathy and extremism long after this parliament, and these power-hungry, self-serving idiots will be to blame.

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