Monday 18 May 2009

Our democracy is alive and kicking

This week you couldn’t pick up a newspaper or watch the news without another revelation about another MP and their dubious expense claims.

I can’t think of a time when public opinion on MPs has been so low, and rightly so. There is real contempt and disgust at the behaviour and actions of many of our MPs, which I actually think is a good thing, in that it shows that we have a healthy democratic process working effectively.

It feels at the moment like we’ve entered some sort of watershed moment in British politics in which things may never quite be the same again. Our MPs know this and so do the public.

I’m hoping that in the long term the fall out from the last couple of weeks events will have a real lasting positive affect on the conduct of our MPs and how we view our political representatives.

There are occasions where you need major events to shake things up, to act as a purge on bad practices and conduct, to bring about some sort of renewal and change, and this is something which I optimistically believe will occur following recent revelations.

Clearly the actions of some of our MPs has shown a certain arrogance in which they believe that they are above the law, and that the normal rules of conduct that apply to the vast majority of us are of no concern to them.

With the investigation and scrutiny of the press and public anger combining to condemn our MPs it demonstrates that we have a healthy democracy, one whereby we have managed to remind MPs that they are working on behalf of the electorate and that they are accountable to us. This surely must be a positive thing.

This is something that our politicians need to be constantly reminded of. I’m not interested in tarnishing all MPs with the same brush, there are over 600 of them, and it shouldn't be forgotten that there are many of them that do a commendable job representing the views of their constituents, and adhere to the principles of the expenses system.

What I do believe is that it’s easy for politicians to become cocooned in a Westminster bubble where people can become detached from the realities of day-to-day life and public opinion. I think this partly explains one of the reasons behind the expense scandal.

It's certainly been a major wake up call not only for current politicians but also for those people who may consider a career in politics at some point in their lives.

One thing that does bother me is the amount of career politicians that are now emerging at Westminster, people who are going into politics in the their 20s and then spending the rest of their careers in this political bubble.

I’m not saying that this is always necessarily a bad thing, but it’s also important that we have MPs who have other careers and other life experiences behind them, before they look at standing for parliament.

If only in order that they still have some real connection with the lives and concerns of the general public that they are representing. Too many of our politicians have become cut off from the public.

In regards to how I believe some of the problems of MPs expenses should be resolved, I’m of the view that MPs should be paid more and that the amount that can be claimed in allowances should be drastically reduced. I know that many people would argue that MPs already get paid enough, but I think that despite public anger we still need to encourage the brightest and the best talent to enter politics as the country will be poorer for it.

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