Friday, 10 April 2009

In defence of politics....

. Nick Clegg has been continuing his call for cross-party talks for reform of the expenses system; there has been a flurry of expenses related scandals recently. I don't intend to add my voice to the flurry of condemnation but rather give a different slant; one that will perhaps be appreciated more by regular readers of this blog or might be wildly unpopular.

First, let's be honest there are people who abuse the system; who are just in politics 'on the make' and it's quite right that they are pilloried and the press highlight these cases and call for heads to roll. It should be a given that these people defiantly do exist and do bring politics and the political system into disrepute. However, that really makes politics no different from any other walk of life you care to mention and this is something worth bearing in mind. What we are really seeing in the press reaction to these stories is the first manifestation of a mood of austerity and MP's being natural targets of that mood.

Having said all that; and I am sure there are plenty of people who read this blog who are well aware of this through direct or indirect personal experience, a good 90% of people in politics graft amazingly hard and do work for their constituents very hard indeed. I am sure this is something that applies across the parties too, if we are honest and that there are people in all parties (no matter how much I may disagree with their ideas) that do work hard and are genuinely in politics to make a real positive difference in how the country is run. Of course, leaving aside the various tiers of elected representatives there are also the legions of party members, volunteers and staff who make it all happen; not to mention bloggers (how could I forget).

In their own, sometimes haphazard, way all these people contribute to our democracy and do 'make it happen' in a very real way. None of them really deserve to be associated with the scandalous behaviour of a small minority but they are in the public eye and that is largely the fault of the press not the politicians because as is often said 'good news' isn't really that newsworthy. So, when we are looking at issues around apathy and a loss of confidence in politics and politicians we invariably have to address the role of the press in creating public perception.

Of course, there are issues around fixing the system which have been exposed by these stories which Clegg and the other party leaders are right to address. It is as much for the genuine people in politics that these issues do need to be addressed as for the wider question of making sure the public can have confidence in the system and the people that represent them and that things like apathy and distrust aren't allowed to take hold.

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