Earlier this year the Evening Standard ridiculed Chuka Umunna MP for spending £14.99 on a mop for his constituency office. Reading this I thought it was a joke. It wasn't. We really have reached a point that the press paint MPs as swindling the public at every turn. How dare Chuka claim for a mop. I bet he claimed for a bucket too. Surely the visiting constituent with the dirtiest shoes should have paid for a mop. Scoundrel.
Over the weekend I went to the Institute of Ideas' annual Battle of Ideas conference. I attended a seminar on how Britain is seen through the eyes of the international community. Apart from saying Brits should learn more languages one German journalist said that we have the harshest attitude to our politicians. We offer them zero privacy and the press are deeply unpleasant to them and foster a distrust from the public towards MPs. He said that this was the quickest way to lose talent and good people who would see a career in the City or elsewhere as more attractive and lucrative. Sebastian Borger went on to say that our MPs are among the most honest in the world. This was echoed by my international friends on my Masters degree. One American exclaimed bemusement at the whole Chris Huhne parking ticket circus. In America it wouldn't even be a thing and US politicians don't fear being constantly being tripped up by the media or even catfished as Brooks Newmark MP came to find out.
I asked an insightful friend why more women weren't attracted in going into politics. She simply sent me this recent article: It's a terrible job spec, so how can we encourage more women to become MPs? To sum up why: it's horrible. Quite frankly only an idiot would go into politics. Or someone with a deep commitment to public service. MPs don't go up for election for the money, and definitely not for the fame. Across the parties the MPs I have met say that they felt that they wanted to help people who were struggling. They wanted to use the little courage they had to use politics as a platform to champion their constituents' interests and bring to light the difficulties people face. These are the people we want in politics from a wide range of backgrounds. If we eat up the media's view on shock at an MP using taxpayers' money to buy a mop, or what the new Work and Pensions Minister is wearing and offer no respect, fairness and privacy then only the idiots will apply. Press and public, let's treat politicians as what they are: fallible people trying to do the best they can. Yes, they should be an example of good citizenship and when corruption arises the full weight of the law should be shown. However, perspective, empathy and engagement should be used. We want people as MPs, not petrified robots too scared to do anything or speak up for us.