Saturday, 31 March 2007

Keeping your trap shut

We're constantly being told that trust for politicians is at an all time low. That's because we don't know what politicians bloody *do*. Show an average voter a picture an average feed from the House of Commons and the first thing they'll mention is that there's practically no-one in there. The obvious conclusion is therefore that all the snout-in-trough lazy bastards are pissed in the bars. And the distrust of politicians is reinforced.

So MPs have voted themselves an extra £10k each for communications. Good. How can it be a bad idea for politicians to have more communication with the electorate? If they waste the money, or have nothing to say because they haven't done anything, then we'll know. And we'll vote them out. If, on the other hand, we learn more about what our MPs are up to then maybe - maybe - we'll have a bit more respect for them. And that is worth £6.5m in my book.

The Tories claim it's another example of Labour politicians with their snouts in their trough, that it's a waste of public money, that it protects the incumbent. That last one is a gem: it only protects the incumbent if the incumbent has something to communicate: if they can point to a job well done. In that respect, it is a diadvantage to Tories because they'll have to work even harder to show that the sitting Labour and Lib Dem MPs are deserving of replacement.

But there's another reason why the Tories are unhappy with the Communications allowance.

Consider this. In the past two months, two Conservative politicians have been embroiled in race rows. Patrick Mercer was the Shadow Defence Secretary, while Brian Gordon is a Councillor in Hendon. I'm not going to go into the detail on these, others have done it already (or not, as the case may be).

But it's worth pointing that both episodes were sparked by the politicians themselves. They were not "outed" or "duped" (even though Patrick Mercer claims he was off the record). Councillor Gordon sent the offending photo into the local newspaper himself.

Say, for the sake of argument, that you were a Tory politician. One of the nice new ones that we keep hearing about. Worried about the environment, big fan of the NHS, solar panels on your roof, cycle to the golf club, all that.

Now, would you, as a New Conservative, really want all those nasty old-school Tories running off down to Prontaprint? With Jack Straw's ten large in their back pockets and their essays on why "multiculturalism is a failed experiment" scrawled on an old Garrick Club menu in their sticky paws? Would you?

No. Which is why all the Tories voted against the allowance.

If you can't trust a shadow cabinet member to keep his trap shut, how the hell are you going to trust 650+ Parliament Candidates?

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