David Blackburn

Public contempt for political elites extends beyond the expenses scandal

Public contempt for political elites extends beyond the expenses scandal
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Rachel Sylvester’s essential Times column describes the ‘Court of Public Opinion’ as a lynch mob that must be placated by MPs embracing the Kelly Review. She writes:

‘The real problem about expenses is that they have made it harder for politicians to show leadership about the things that matter far more. The verdict of the court of public opinion is too harsh on many MPs. But unless they accept it, serve the sentence and move on, they will never be able to convince the voters to listen to them on anything else.’

Even if MPs accept the Kelly Review in its entirety, grovel, flagellate and repent, the Court of Public Opinion’s desire to impose a Bloody Code on Westminster will not be assuaged. Slyvester quotes one MP who acknowledges this fact:

‘Denied the opportunity to deliver its verdict, through a general election, the jury will only grow angrier. “There needs to be some blood letting,” admitted a minister. “The public has to see sacrifice if we are going to lance the boil and get rid of the poison.”

Just as Gordon Brown’s unpopularity cannot be ascribed solely to the economy, so the public’s contempt for the Westminster omnishambles extends beyond expenses. More than a decade of top-down interference, ‘elf and safety, disregard for the concerns of diverse rural and urban communities alike, and, above all, a complacent, pious sense of Westminster’s supreme inviolability has engendered a minority culture of apathy and extremism. Renewal of formerly elite politics must be galvanised. Swallowing Kelly’s proposals alone is insufficient, but it is a start as we near the catharsis of a general election.