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How a Minority of Politicians are Letting Westminister Down

Posted: 12/03/2012 23:00

Allow me to let you in on a little-known secret. The unwritten rules of teenage social status mean that political writers don't make it up very high on the food chain. If someone at my college asks me what I did the night before, I usually opt for convenient memory loss, to avoid admitting I watched the ITV Evening News, BBC News at Ten and Newsnight, before settling down with a cuppa to read The Spectator and preview the next morning's papers.

Politics isn't cool. Politicians are drowning with banking executives and traffic wardens at the bottom of the occupational barrel. You're probably not oozing with sympathy for your local MP right now, and I don't blame you for this. Let's face it- some who grace the corridors of power really don't help themselves.

In the pecking order of society, it's all about images and stereotypes that are built by media-exaggerated minority incidents. When in the public eye, if you're not Gary Barlow or the Queen, it's pretty hard to avoid the British obsession with tabloid scandals. One or two can prove damaging to a reputation, and two or three can prove catastrophic for a career. Yet- three or four dozen of these firestorms can cause on-going issues on a cataclysmic scale that last for generations.

Westminster is currently a victim of the latter scale of bombardment. It may house 650 different MPs of varying calibre, but in the simplistic, stereotypical world of the public eye, "they're all the same". If one takes a bullet, they all go down.

No matter how talented and compassionate some in the commons chamber are, the collective reputation of British politicians as a whole is tainted by a small group of fools who make nonsensical mistakes every few months. Looking at the way they seem to take it in turns, you'd be forgiven for assuming they have some sort of pre-arranged rota. Of course, the rota was abandoned and they all took a few months off after the expenses scandal of 2009 (to be fair, they had outdone themselves on this occasion).

This pointless rant about political slip-ups is relevant due to an incident that took place almost three weeks ago in the Strangers' Bar in the Palace of Westminster. A politician named Eric Joyce was arrested late in the evening by police after drunkenly assaulting MPs from rival parties, and his own. He treated officers at the Central London police station in which he was held in a similar manner. Windows were smashed, and noses were reportedly left bleeding, by a man who is meant to be a figure of authority and respect.

Let me take you back to August of last year. As London smouldered after four consecutive nights of violence, politicians of all parties stood up and condemned the rioters. Our prime minister made the bold move of labelling some sections of British society as "sick", and he was right to say this. However, he probably thought he was pointing the finger a lot further away from home than he actually was.

In a perfect democracy, Members of Parliament should represent their constituents in every sense of the word. They should act as role models and do what is right. They should set the bar for standards in ethics and behaviour. This may be somewhat tricky in the aforementioned current media climate, but it is doable.

Every single scandal frustrates me for the single fact that not all our MPs are bad. Westminster currently homes some of the best politicians in the world. But the culture of tabloid scandal we love to live with means that the small number of fools that slip up overshadow the high standard of the rest. The truth is that British politicians are generally of an extremely high calibre. Most in the commons chamber are in politics for the right reasons, doing the right things for the right people. My hope is that the minority of members who cannot be described in this way won't continue to drag down the reputation of the majority.

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