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Politics has been brought into disrepute: MPs should swear to serve the common good

This is the theme of a petition to David Cameron initiated by Barbara Hayes.*

At the G-7 meeting in Brussels in June, the PM urged leaders of the world’s largest economies to “address the real cancer eating away at the world’s economic and political systems: corruption”. His recommendation, “the three Ts: greater transparency, fair tax systems and freer trade”. In 2013 he ‘put Liberia ‘on notice’:

cameron corruption

“You see the speck in your brother’s eye but fail to notice the beam in your own”

Barbara Hayes is more radical, pointing to the need for honest decision-makers dedicated to serving the public good and not their own self-interest, rather than mere structural changes. She writes – in a personal capacity:

“People talk of voter apathy but in fact many voters are frustrated & dismayed by a political elite that appears self serving or serving vested interests. Decisions are made based on ideology, vested interest and the power of the lobby rather than on the interests of the people affected.

“The expenses scandal, bribes for questions, the possibility of a cover up of child abuse and other instances repeatedly bring politics into disrepute so it’s not surprising that people don’t trust politicians and don’t see the point of voting.

“We need to change the whole ethos of our democracy.

“Politicians need to be regularly reminded that they are elected to serve the people rather than just to pursue a political career”.

Barbara Hayes points out that – though MPs’ only formal promise is an oath of allegiance to the Queen and her heirs – their Code of Conduct lists the duties of MPs:

  • To bear true allegiance to the Queen and her successors,
  • To uphold the law,
  • To act in the interests of the nation as a whole, especially their constituents
  • To act with probity and integrity.

She comments: “These duties are pretty minimal. We are all meant to uphold the law, but to encapsulate the Code and to remind us all of the purpose of politics MPs should also swear ‘to serve the common good honestly’ . . . ‘the common good’ could become a test of policy . . . Words are powerful and a public statement of commitment will help MPs and voters to recognise what politics should be about & begin to make that real.

To read the petition, follow the link here.

*Now a freelance consultant, Barbara Hayes worked as an industrial chaplain for twenty years, with people of every faith and none, in all sizes of organisations in the public and private sectors. 

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FT on the rise of populism in politics: Janan Ganesh doesn’t go to the heart of the matter

A promising start:

tony blairGanesh, “A spirit of anti-politics began permeating the country around the turn of the millennium when Tony Blair, the last politician the British allowed themselves to love, broke their hearts by turning out to be a prime minister and not a miracle worker.

“The disillusion intensified after the Iraq war, a work of naive over-ambition forever remembered as an act of heinous deceit. Then came the crash, the expenses scandal and much more immigration than voters were told to expect.

“Cynicism verging on nihilism is the closest thing modern Britain has to a national ideology. It has become common sense to assume the worst of anyone in public authority”.

Causal trends noted:

  • fragmentation of class loyalty,
  • wage stagnation and structural unemployment,
  • UKIP relies on older voters, of whom there are more and more.

Damage limitation?

Ganesh advises: “Mainstream politicians should remind populists that they do the hard work of politics: representing constituents, reconciling competing claims and taking an interest in dry corners of legislation that affect people’s lives. Most politics is necessary drudgery”.

The public has become aware of the truth

revolving door largerMany more people are now aware that political decisions are being made in the interests of wealthy corporates, not the electorate. This leads to the damaging decisions made in the economic, social, environmental and military sectors. The Political Concern website was set up to raise awareness of the ‘revolving door’, rewards for failure, widespread behind-the-scene lobbying and party funding which corruption the decision-making process here and abroad.

The latest example of the revolving door:

jackie callcut textjackie callcut text2

Until leading politicians really care for the ‘ordinary’ people, who elect and pay them to work for the common good, the spirit of anti-politics” will continue to “permeate” the country.

We need to build an anti-corruption movement – one did well in Delhi elections.