THE BLOG

Let's Make Lying in Parliament History

05/12/2014 18:07 GMT | Updated 04/02/2015 10:59 GMT

For the past couple of years I've been highlighting corruption, greed and hypocrisy for my TV show The Revolution Will Be Televised. But right now, I'm making a documentary for the BBC about why young people aren't interested in Westminster politics.

A recent survey suggested that only 12% of 18-24 year olds plan to vote in the 2015 general election.

If young people don't vote when they are first eligible to, it starts a pattern - there's a real danger that they won't ever vote.

The potential consequences are clearly serious. Politicians already prioritise the older generation - baby boomers, grey voters - because they are the ones who turn out for elections.

As Vince Cable told me in a recent interview: "I think younger people may see that the system is skewed in the interests of older people, that's the way British democracy has turned out. Older people vote, younger people tend not to vote and so Parliament tends to reflect the interests of older people".

If young people don't vote, it's only going to get worse for them.

The underlying problem seems to be an increasing lack of trust and respect for politicians and therefore for the political process. Today, less than one in four people trust MPs. An all too common perception I've heard is that politicians are liars who are just out for themselves and that they don't represent our interests.

Next year it's the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta - a document that gave birth to the rights and freedoms we enjoy today. Is it now time for a new Magna Carta? Could a Magna Carta 2.0 improve people's faith in politicians?

This Magna Carta 2.0 could include a measure to make lying to Parliament illegal (and maybe have lying MPs thrown to the lions!). If I were to lie in a court of law, I would go to jail. If I make false or misleading statements as a director of a publicly listed company about my shares or assets I can face criminal prosecution. But astonishingly it's entirely legal for an MP to lie to Parliament.

It's one rule for them and one rule for us.

I interviewed Zac Goldsmith MP recently and he told me that he thinks our democracy is dysfunctional. I wasn't shocked when he said, "lying is a staple in Parliament". But the longer I sat with that statement the more uncomfortable I felt about it.

Zac also said: "At the moment you can lie to get elected. You can then behave in any manner you want in Parliament. You can do whatever you want. You can break every single promise you've made and there's nothing your constituent can do about it."

All those election campaign promises that are promptly broken - and the outrageous untruths spoken in Parliament. It's been suggested to me that the best way to begin the process of restoring trust and respect is to make it a criminal offence to deliberately lie in Parliament.

I'm not launching my petition as part of a campaign to actually have this law passed. Magna Carta 2.0 is, after all, my fantasy. Rather I want to start a long needed debate about re-engaging people in politics and about the importance of truth and trust in politics. What I want to discover is what support there would be if an MP were to propose a new law making lying to Parliament illegal. That's why I've launched this online petition.

Please sign the petition here and let's start a public debate about how we can make politicians' lies history.

Jolyon's documentary "Magna Carta 2.0" is due to air in February 2015 on BBC3 as part of the BBC's season celebrating the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta.

View the "Make Lying History" launch video for the petition featuring Russell Brand, Oona Chaplin and Jack Whitehall below