Read more : Read more : Ryan Shorthouse: Restoring trust in politics

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Restoring trust in politics

Using public money to fund their children's lavish lifestyles at university, receiving money in brown envelopes to ask Parliamentary Questions, taking donations without registering them: recent revelations reinforce the perception that politicians are corrupt.

Politicians are trusted less than any other profession. Whereas 29% of the population believe the ordinary man or woman on the street does not tell the truth, a frightening 72% believe politicians do not tell the truth.

This is incredibly bad for democracy. Fewer people will be engaged, politics becoming the domain of a handful of politicos, unhealthily unrepresentative. The sleaze of the Major years and New Labour era has contributed to the record low turnout in the last two elections, with four in ten eligible people simply not bothering to vote.

Scepticism of politicians also means fewer talented, thoughtful and proactive people find politics worthy of interest or a respectable profession to enter. The likelihood positive change will be implemented is thus reduced.

All politicians need to recognise that they have a responsibility to change the minimal confidence the public have in their integrity. David Cameron was right to take the lead in insisting frontbench Conservative MP's publish the number of staff they employ, the names of the staff they employ, and a breakdown of the costs of running their office. After all, constituents should know what they are voting and paying for.

The insistence that MP’s give a detailed account of how they spend taxpayer's money may well prevent the abuse we have recently seen. Get rid of sleaze and the appalling image the public has of politicians may begin to change.

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