Political Promise

In Defence of MPs

In Will Obeney on August 31, 2010 at 1:35 pm
The expenses scandal caused uproar

Once upon a time, politicians were the most well-respected people in the land. What went wrong? Will Obeney finds out.

The general public looked up to them and adored them. A lot has changed in the 300 years since Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford, became the first Prime Minister of Britain though. In fact, even Walpole himself did not escape public hounding: he was often known by the nickname ‘the fat squire of Norfolk’.

What I am saying here is that MPs have always been disliked as a group. We are often reminded by them that ‘you can’t please everybody all the time’, and that’s completely true. Saying this, there is something different about the feelings of the public at the moment; it isn’t just unhappiness, it is hatred which is more intense and fiery than ever.

Iraq, Afghanistan, expenses, second homes, employing family members – they are all to blame for the distrust and anger. It is fair to say we have been failed by some politicians in these areas. In addition, the harder times brought about by the recession have fuelled the feelings of cynicism.

Major criticisms levelled at politicians are that they are lazy, greedy, untrustworthy and uninterested in the people who matter – the constituents. After experiencing almost a month working in Portcullis House, which houses the offices of 210 members and their staff, I have found these condemnations grossly unfair.

Let me first dispute the idea that MPs are lazy. They apparently sit around in Westminster all day drinking on the terrace; they then go home to their luxury mansions or city penthouses at half four, and enjoy the countryside or the city sunset respectively, over a glass of champagne. What a misinterpretation of the work of an MP. I observed some politicians who worked from seven in the morning to seven in the evening – or even later if an important bill was going through the chamber. In addition to this, many MPs work Saturdays – sometimes even Sundays – in their constituency. Would you fancy these work hours?

Greed. It is easy to see where the opinion that this is rife among politicians comes from: expenses. I am sympathetic when it comes to these occupational perks. Although some claims such as the now-famous duck house and moat repairs are truly ridiculous, other claims framed as ‘a disgrace’ by the tabloids were completely fair.

The majority of representatives at Westminster get a salary of £65 738. I realise that this is a lot of money to most, but for someone who works for up to 110 000 people, would you begrudge them for it? Compare it to the salaries of head teachers, city managers and NHS bosses, plus consider the pressure from the media, and you will realise that there are far easier ways to make a living.

Finally, I would like to challenge those who tell us that our MPs are more interested in the party than the people. This particularly annoys me. I saw first-hand politicians becoming personally involved in the problems of constituents, meeting them at surgery and helping them daily with all things from visa applications to fly-tipping. Indeed, many letters regarding the problems of constituents were written by staff in Westminster, but not all.

When someone votes for a candidate associated with a party, they cannot reasonably expect he or she to vote in the chamber purely on how the constituents feel. The representative would have advertised themselves under the banner of their party and so to vote against their party would be cheating the electorate.

I hope I have done enough here to convince you that MPs are not liars, cheats, frauds, greedy or self-important; they are good, honest, hard-working people who should not be lambasted but celebrated. Sadly, I realise there will always be that section of society who derive self-confidence and self-importance from branding all politicians with the same hot iron.

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  1. Got it in one. Love the post.

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