Wednesday 23 June 2010


In the wake of the expenses scandal one of the closing themes of the last parliament, and then the general election, was the need to "clean up politics" and restore respect not only for politicians but for the political process itself. There was little in yesterday's debate on the budget which demonstrated any progress in this area.

Calling the opposition party liars and deceivers, which is what the the coalition's claim that the outgoing government had left the nation in an even bigger mess than they'd admitted amounts to, does nothing to restore respect. Even if it is true, and the evidence is at best ambiguous, there is no reason why the new government should not just put their heads down and get on with the job, rather than invoking the tired cliché of trying to shift the blame on the last lot. There are thousands of situations in business,education and other walks of life where a "new broom" simply gets on with the job without trying to denigrate the previous administration.

Then Harriet Harman accused the Liberal Democrats in government of betraying our principles in order to get ministerial cars. She knows perfectly well that this isn't true, that had the Liberal Democrats and Labour between us won another dozen or so seats Liberal Democrats would have been sitting along side her, that the actual parliamentary arithmetic made the present situation unavoidable, and that the real reason why Liberal Democrats are accepting unpalatable economic measures is that this is the compromise necessary to obtain our long-term goal of constitutional reform. Her speech was clever slapstick but did nothing to restore respect for politics or politicians.

Finally, although about a third of the the present MPs are new there seems to be no change in the behviour of the House of Commons as a whole. They were debating serious measures on which there is scope for serious and genuine disagreement and which will have a serious impact on the lives of many ordinary people, especially the most vulnerable in our society. Bear-garden yah-booing is totally inappropriate in these circumstances. In fact it is questionable whether it is appropriate in any circumstance.

If respect for politics and the democratic process is to be restored then government, opposition and all back-benchers need to change their style.

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