Sunday, October 08, 2006

Trust but verify

A recent survey has shown that people in Britain are moderately happy with their lives. All in all a happy society is to be welcomed.

One area where the survey showed particular dissatisfaction was with politics. The Brits don't trust their leaders- any of them. They are not even sure about the institutions. The findings are striking, and very distinctive.

Personally I think that it shows the good sense of most of the British people- the fact is that a healthy scepticism is much to be preferred compared to the slavishness of the citizens of a tyranny.

However it also shows the corrosive effect of the image and spin obsession of the Government and now of Cameron's Conservatives. People do not have trust in the institutions because they do not feel ownership or connection with the political system. There is a great divorce between an increasingly professionalised political system and an alienated population. The fact is that a single vote every few years in a rigged electoral system allows very few voters to get the MP that they voted for, still less the policies that they support.

Until the power of the electorate is restored through a fair voting system, then the Executive will continue to treat MPs with contempt. MPs gain their power from being selected by a handful of their party members- for the number of safe seats that there are already means that the result is all but sure. Personally I do not believe in safe seats- every seat should be marginal and every MP should justify themselves to the electorate.

The only way to keep politicians honest is to ensure that the electoral system makes them accountable and unless that happens, then the British are quite right to look on politicians with a sceptical eye.

When we have politicians who work to earn our trust, then maybe we can think about trusting them- until then we can play the political game, but we should cut the cards ourselves.

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