Neville Hobson

Is there any surprise trust is so low?

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You could see the headline on the front page of todayâ€s Daily Telegraph on the newsstand from 50 feet away: The ministers and the money.

Whatever your political stance, it must surely be apparent to anyone that something in Westminster is rotten, and has been for a very long time, regarding the expenses and allowances system that members of Parliament enjoy as our elected representatives.

All the revelations the Telegraph has published – not only today but also yesterday, and apparently thereâ€s more to come – paint a picture in my mind of a system that relies on the honour of individuals where such honour clearly doesnâ€t exist, neither with the members of Parliament nor with those officials who run the system.

See, no oneâ€s actually done anything wrong. No law has been broken, apparently (although it looks like a scapegoat may be sought as to who leaked the details of MPs expenses to the Telegraph).

No, what it looks like to me is that you have a bunch of greedy and dishonourable people (aka members of Parliament) who game the system. Nothing more, nothing less.

It also seems to me that guidelines like The Green Book: A guide to Members†allowances relies far too much on that honour I mentioned earlier, which clearly is a no hoper these days if the Telegraphâ€s reporting is accurate.

I think it also presents a genuine dilemma in being able to answer the question: Who do you trust? See how surveys that address that question – Edelmanâ€s 2009 Trust Barometer, for instance, and last yearâ€s survey by the Committee on Standards in Public Life – have fared.

Thereâ€s a general election due within the next 12 months. The real dilemma to many voters is going to be: If everyoneâ€s a moral crook, who do I vote for?

What would happen if nobody voted, I wonder? If everyone expressed their disgust by abstaining, on the basis that thereâ€s no one worthy of a vote? Maybe weâ€ll get a signal of that next month in the local government elections in England as well as the European Parliament elections.

I donâ€t believe abstaining is the answer – if you donâ€t vote, donâ€t expect to have a say in anything. Even if someone like Conservative leader David Cameron wants to polish the tarnished image of politics, I donâ€t believe for one second that such a mother of all PR jobs is going to make a jot of difference to what people think of politics and politicians.

Yet who would you trust? Who would you vote for?

Where are the Monster Raving Loonies when you need them?


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