Trust in Politics

My apologies, dear readers. A heavy emotional post on life, love and death last week, and a political rant this week! I read somewhere that in order to build a successful blog you should decide what your niche is, and only post on that topic. So, pregnancy or parenting, or writing, or mental health, or politics, or travel or humour. Choose one and stick to it. This is probably good advice if what you want is to build followers quickly and secure lucrative marketing deals. However, that’s not why I started this blog. Its title ‘A Life More Ordinary’ reflected what it was intended to be – a record of my life in all its ordinary and extraordinary moments. And of course real life doesn’t come neatly segmented into topics or hashtags, it is a crazy, infuriating, glorious jumble which on a bad day feels like an uncontrolled mess, but which on a good day you can see as a beautiful, complicated, intricate tapestry.

So, politics. Along with many people, I was somewhat surprised last week to hear the Prime Minister declare that the failure of MPs to vote for her Brexit deal would result in the breakdown of trust in politics. Which is odd, because although I am most definitely experiencing a breakdown of trust in politics, it isn’t caused by MPs (from all political backgrounds) rigorously scrutinising this crucial issue and refusing to vote for something they don’t believe is in the country’s best interests. What is causing it for me is:

a) The way the Government alternately patronises and ignores the 16M of us who voted to remain, the 1M of us who marched through London last Saturday, and the 6M (and counting) who have signed a petition to revoke Article 50. One thing has become increasingly clear over the past couple of years is that of the 17M people who voted to leave the EU, there is no majority for what they actually mean by this.

Some hard-right, extreme Brexiteers want to crash out without any kind of a deal and suspend all relations with the EU, ignoring the crisis this would cause in many areas, but especially the risk to peace in Northern Ireland. Others want a ‘Norway’ solution, where we are no longer full members of the EU, but continue to share close ties with them. The Prime Minister has put forward another option in the form of her own Brexit deal, and there are many other variations.

One thing of which I can be absolutely certain is that none of those options would command 16M votes, and so remain would be the most popular of available options once they were more clearly defined.

b) Speaking of clearly defined. £350m a week for the NHS. The easiest deal in history. Remember those promises from the Leave campaign? They’ve now been proven to be lies, but not only are the perpetrators not being held to account, neither are people who may have voted on the basis of this false information being given a chance to change their minds. As prominent Leave campaigner David Davis once said “If a democracy cannot change its mind it ceases to be a democracy.” Well quite.

c) This one is a biggie for me in the breakdown of trust. I watched the news last night, with lots of coverage from the House of Commons where MPs were holding their indicative votes. When Oliver Letwin and Anna Soubry, who are genuinely working very hard to try and find a way through the Brexit mess and come up with a solution, attempted to speak their voices were almost drowned out by jeers, heckles, catcalls and insults. How is this acceptable? In any other workplace I can think of, such behaviour would result in instant dismissal. Surely MPs should be held, if anything, to higher standards than the rest of us, not far, far lower? It’s not just workplaces. My 4yo daughter comes home from nursery and tells me that they have to make good choices, use kind words, raise their hands if they want to speak at carpet time so that everyone gets a chance to be heard. How utterly shaming is it that some of our elected representatives can’t adhere to the same standards of basic decency and courtesy that we expect from a group of small children?

d) And, finally, yesterday Mrs May announced that she would stand down if her deal was voted through. Setting aside for one moment the naked careerist self-interest of politicians like Boris Johnson who have claimed to be against the deal as a matter of principle, but find their principles suddenly strangely flexible when the chance of becoming PM is dangled in front of them, how is this in any way democratic? A Tory leadership election, which is the means by which our new PM will be chosen, will be decided by Tory party members. A few thousand people from a membership organisation, which is hardly representative of the general population, will get to choose the Prime Minister. Legally it could be another three years before the rest of us get to vote on whether we agree with them, during which time they will have led the country through its biggest political and economic upheaval since World War II. Without any of the above issues, this alone would pretty much decimate my trust in politics.

I’m not bashing all MPs. Seriously, contrary to popular opinion, many of them are totally decent human beings genuinely trying to do their best for their constituents and their country. My own local MP, Stella Creasy, is one of the absolute best. But, along with the rest of us, they are being sadly let down by a contemptuous Government, a toxic and abusive culture in the Commons, and a deeply flawed political system.

EU march

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