Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Close The Dorries On Your Way Out

Politics hates you.

It does. Really. No matter how much you try to engage with it, politics would much rather you just pissed off and left it alone to run your life for you.

Once upon a time, in order to get involved with Parliamentary politics you needed to be landed gentry, or a decorated general, or a wealthy industrialist. The agenda you pursued when you got there was most likely to be one of preserving your own position and feathering your own financial nest.

Over time, things changed. Politics became no longer something that only rich people had the time and money to get involved in. The middle classes, trade unionists, even athletes and television news reporters could get into Parliament. A good thing, making the Lower House more representative of the population as a whole.

Agendas changed too. Politics became no longer about feathering your own nest, and more about feathering the nests of those who were most likely to vote for you so they would do it again.

Events of recent weeks however, would suggest that we have gone full circle.

First we had Denis MacShane, not only getting caught with his nose in the trough but having the balls to then try and blame it on a "co-ordinated BNP vendetta" based on his work campaigning against far-right groups in the UK and Europe.

MacShane claimed £20,000 per year for the costs of running an office, which was actually based in his garage at home. He invented a fake general manager to sign off on purchases, and submitted 19 false invoices designed to mislead the Parliamentary authorities.

This was just the latest of a range of expenses claims by MPs which have come to light indicating just how far some are prepared to "play" the expenses system. A system which takes public money and distributes it so MPs no longer have to rely on their own personal wealth to fund their own constituency activities.

No sooner was that off the front pages, than Conservative MP Nadine Dorries decided that her political causes and career would be much better served appearing on an ITV "reality" show than working in Parliament or in her constituency.

Dorries will be paid up to £40,000 by ITV for taking part in the show, filmed in Australia. Her rationale for abandoning her day job and the interests of those who voted for her, is that the show will enable her to reach a much wider audience than her views would get in the UK.

I can only imagine she hasn't seen the show, however. A whole day can be edited down into 10-15 minutes of "highlights". If Nadine's pronouncements on economic policy or the abortion limit make those highlights, the producers have clearly done an awful job of picking their cast.

She's not the first serving MP to do such a thing. George Galloway was MP for Bethnal and Bow when he entered the Celebrity Big Brother house in 2006 and made an enormous tit of himself in the process. Certainly nobody remembers anything about his politics from his appearance on the show.

Dorries did not seek approval from her party to appear on the show. Neither did she even go to the bother of informing her own constituency office, who found out about it in the same way the rest of us did.

She just decided to take four weeks off work, expecting of course to be paid throughout, to pursue her own interests. Treating your employers and customers like that in any other walk of life would probably lead to you appearing on the dole queue shortly after.

Denis MacShane and Nadine Dorries are just the two latest examples of the contempt with which the modern professional politician and politics in general treats the public.

When those in Westminster start bemoaning how disengaged people are from the political system, they would do well to hold up a mirror to themselves. They may well see the answer right there.

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