If someone has phoned or knocked your door to ask how you will vote, it could well have been me. It has been an interesting couple of weeks for this. Firstly the weather, flipping from sunshine to downpours, and secondly the febrile condition of the press and parliament.
I’d really like to talk about what we need the County Council and European Parliament to do, and to prompt people to use their vote and keep extremists out, but people I canvass are of one mind. They want to talk about MPs expenses.
At the first house the lady took a look at my sticker and said “you’ve got to be joking”. Her trust was gone, she was never going to vote again. I spent ten minutes with her. I knew I was on firm ground. My MP is someone who cares deeply about his work. He lives modestly. His rented flat in London is basic. Anything more would be pointless as he generally works a 14 hour day and is never there! There are no hanging baskets, no chandeliers and definitely no moat. Stories of claims by fellow MPs on both sides of the house have left him baffled and frustrated by the real damage done to public trust.
I answered the lady fully, on expenses, the hospital and all her other questions. I had the satisfaction of knowing that I left her re-assured, better informed, and much more likely to vote.
I’ve been trying to understand all this. I think we are seeing a radical re-adjustment of values. Politicians don’t just represent us. They are us, and they reflect what we are. Their failings are our failings. For a couple of decades “doing well for yourself” was the chief good. It is what most people aspired to. This climate is changing. As the recession bites people resent others taking more than they need. First we pilloried bankers, then MPs, we are starting on the media and celebrities, and there will be others. Where prosperity looks like greed it is no longer tolerated.
There are signs that old fashioned values like truthfulness, fairness, restraint, and courtesy may yet have their day. One thing that genuinely pleased me in recent days is that all three local papers, none of them much given to flattery, have looked at my MP with new eyes, recognised his qualities and seen that they matter.
My last call of the day was to a gentleman. He gave me the answers I wanted to hear. Then he said “Well done, keep up the good work”. Thanks! It is just what I intend to do.
PS. David Kidney’s expenses are now on his website. They are the least interesting page there!