There are various reasons why people, in the main, don’t trust politicians.
Part of it is clearly born out of the majority of the public’s general ignorance of political issues, and I’m willing to give our elected officials that much.
The notion that “they are all the same” is nonsensical and those who use it as an excuse to withdraw from the process do the rest of us no favours.
They are unable to look past what is, at best, a cliché and at worst is something those politicians who do have something to hide are fully relying on when they abuse their positions.
These guys count on ignorance and disengagement you see.
Another thing people hate about politicians is that ability so many of them have to talk all day and say absolutely nothing.
In and of itself that’s more annoying than dangerous.
Far worse are those who talk that bizarre combination of management speak and focus group fluff, using buzzwords which stripped right down often mean the exact opposite of what they sound like.
Politicians who do that seem to live on a different planet than the rest of us and this is borne out when you meet some of them face to face.
Even the most highly skilled of them, like Gordon Brown, are often completely unable to relate to ordinary citizens, which says much about the bubbles in which they live their lives.
And some politicians are truly venal and corrupt. Others are just useless and badly out of their depth, selected by their parties on the basis that they can toe a certain line and trot out familiar policy statements like good little boys and girls.
In a crisis you see what they are made of, and at times that would make you wish you’d spent a little less time laughing at Doomsday Preppers and a little more learning about where you can get a hundred tins of tuna and a dozen cases of bottled water on the cheap.
Yes, I can understand why a lot of people hate politicians, and if that casts a dark shadow over those who are in public service to do the right thing then, as far as many are concerned, that’s just hard lines. Too many, it seems, are shameless sell-outs.
Today the people who take this extreme view can smile in satisfaction and point at a finger at the shattered rump of the Liberal Democrat Party, but not just them. If the last week has proved anything at all about our political and media class it’s this; far too many of them are arrogant beyond belief, and colossally cut off from the public consciousness.
They clearly weren’t paying attention to what just happened in Scotland, when the whole of the Labour Party was almost wiped out overnight, the all-too predictable result of their own hubris coming into hard contact with our political reawakening.
I mean how else to explain the incredible lengths the Lib Dems and some in the media are going to in defence of Alastair Carmichael, in a wholly misguided, and doomed, effort to save him from facing the full consequences of his behaviour?
At first I thought the reaction from the Lib Dems was the natural one at having to maybe face a humiliating by-election defeat, which will trim their thinned ranks still further. On careful reflection, it’s clearly much more and much less.
These people simply do not understand what they did wrong, and they are aided and abetted by a media which is now several degrees past rational. No-one can have watched The Guardian’s Michael White and his sneering Newsnight performance and doubt that.
These people have somehow made Alastair Carmichael the victim here, and view his actions as the proverbial storm in a teacup.
It is the SNP who are accused of outrageous behaviour, and their moves against him are cast as pieces of political theatre in which the public should place no store. The notion that his behaviour was wholly unacceptable, that politicians should be held to a higher standard than this, that the SNP are simply trying to make sure justice is done, it never enters their thinking at all.
It is hard not to be astonished, and appalled, when listening to a senior member of his party defend his mendacity on the grounds that all politicians lie and that if they were all to suffer the same fate the House of Commons would be empty.
Maybe it should be. If it’s that bad, then maybe that’s what we should be aiming for.
Yet It is equally sickening to read editorials in national newspapers accepting this reasoning as if politicians telling lies was not an outrage and morally indefensible.
If you are a cabinet minister, lying results in your sacking or resignation. That’s as it should be. Yet politicians do the most venal things for all sorts of reasons and aside from a swift demotion (if that) there are no consequences at all.
Jolyon Rubinstein, of The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, actually started a petition in December last year to make it illegal for MP’s to lie in the House. Within a very short time over 100,000 people had signed it.
He said he didn’t want an actual law, but wanted to open up the public debate.
That debate was never properly had. Maybe it’s time that it was.
Because I do believe politicians routinely lie, but I don’t believe it has to be like that, and I certainly do not think it right for cowardly, and disgraceful, members of the press to portray it as something we should just accept.
Where do these people get their sense of responsibility?
Their profession once hunted politicians who did stuff like this. Now they make excuses for them.
These people are pitiful shadows of the legends who came before them.
In the latest issue of the website’s magazine I wrote a lengthy piece on the media.
Today I feel like could add another 1000 words on the last few days alone.
The media is as bad as our political class, and that’s a fact.
Perhaps they are concerned because if the public really is now in a mood to eliminate mendacity from public life that they’re going to have to clean up their own act, and pronto. National newspapers now frequently mislead and lie to their own readers, and that has made a lot of us back away from a profession we once had reverence for.
Our politicians are protected by a system that is badly out of whack.
It is so bent in favour of those whose mendacity is flagrant that their fellow MP’s can’t even call them out on it in the Commons because of “unparliamentarily behaviour” rules.
Everything about it needs turned on its head, but before we can clean out the Augean Stables there’s the small matter of Alastair Carmichael to deal with, and I am delighted to see that the SNP are already pushing for a parliamentary standards enquiry that will have him kicked out of the House long enough to allow his constituents to trigger a by-election.
Yet even then, there is some question as to whether the Standards Committee can touch him because it was during an election cycle when the Parliament had been dissolved – more political clap-trap with the establishment protecting its own.
Now the matter is the subject of a police investigation, and more importantly a petition and online fund raising campaign has been launched to explore legal avenues under the Representation of the People Act.
I contributed myself, and I was glad to.
This is members of the public, ordinary people, pledging their own cash, to see this guy brought to book, and the contrast between that and the servile, spineless kid-gloves treatment he’s getting from the media could not be more stark.
People are no longer prepared to tolerate this kind of thing, even if our “fearless crusading press” are.
There is simply no defence for Carmichael, and his conduct is bad enough. But the rallying around him, the people who are trying – in vain – to find some kind of excuse for him is far worse.
Our media has plumbed hitherto unexplored depths here.
They ought to stick to raking through Susan Boyle’s bins, because that’s the level to which “journalists” like Michael White reduced them this week.
Carmichael has got to go, and in due course he’s going to.
The momentum is unstoppable.
Even his party must realise it and they ought to cut him loose before the Scottish Elections, when they will certainly be obliterated otherwise.
The man hasn’t got a leg to stand on. He can hang on and drag this out, or he can show more honour than he has thus far, and do the decent thing, the right thing, the only thing, and put this to the test and let the people decide whether he’s fit for office.
And I’ll tell you what else; his “public interest” defence is a piece of sheer nonsense too because even if Nicola had said what that memo alleges – and she didn’t, and we know she didn’t, and that needs an investigation on its own – this was the record of a diplomatic meeting.
This wasn’t a House of Commons Select Committee.
This was a high level exchange between the Scottish First Minister and the French Ambassador, and those things are conducted on the condition of confidentiality and non-disclosure.
This is statecraft, and it’s vital that leaders from different countries can come together and have a frank, and full, exchange of views without fear that they’ll be used against anyone.
It is equally scandalous, therefore, that a civil servant decided that minutes of such a meeting could be used for political purposes.
It violates the Civil Service Code of Practice and it puts strain on the government’s ability to interact with foreign powers.
In short, none of that stuff is ever supposed to see the light of day and it worries me that no-one in the press has thus far said that.
For God’s sakes, the Chilcott Inquiry has had to go through nine kinds of Hell to get the minutes of Tony Blair’s meetings with US State Department officials during the lead up to the Iraq War … and that is a fully fledged government led investigation, with the authorisation to go anywhere and get whatever it wants … and I’m not convinced we’ll ever get those details.
Shorn of all the media spin, this is a matter of the utmost gravity.
This is a senior government department leaking details of a memo that turned out to be lies, twisting the words of the First Minister of Scotland and a foreign diplomat, for political gain.
This is the head of that department lying about that to the country, and especially to his electorate, and winning a narrow victory based, in no small part, on a fraud.
This is the media and his colleagues trying to excuse that behaviour by saying, “What’s the big deal? Everybody does it.”
It reeks like a week old corpse left to rot in the sun and this is in the same week that an abuse victim has waived her right to anonymity to point the finger at a current MP who the media won’t name and whose neighbours on the green benches probably still call The Honourable Gentleman.
This is Westminster folks.
When they said we were “Better Together”, this is what they meant.
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