Political trust

Phil Parry says recent political scandals need to be put into perspective.

The financial affairs of our politicians will be under scrutiny as never before in the run up to the Assembly elections next month.

Leaders of political parties in Wales have fallen over themselves to publish their tax returns.

Trust in politicians is at an all-time low, we are told, and the latest opinion poll has put the Prime Minister, David Cameron neck and neck with his opponent Jeremy Corbyn, and that comes as a lot of commentators say Labour can already kiss good bye to the General Election in 2020 with Corbyn at the helm.

And yet… and yet.

This all needs to be put in perspective.

The sums involved in the Panama papers leak in relation to British politicians are relatively small.

The fact that Cameron was gifted £200,000 by his mother may not play badly with the voters.

The issue that he could have made £30,000 by putting money in his late father’s investment vehicle, with profits held off-shore, may not be much of a vote loser.

Voters could think ‘good on him’.

We should remember that our politicians and institutions are relatively clean in international terms.

Believe me, as an investigative journalist I know.

Most politicians I know are (gasp) extremely hard-working and honest.

A recent poll showed that only eight per cent of voters in Spain thought their politicians were honest.

In Germany it was 10 per cent and in France it was 11 per cent.

In America 19 per cent say they trusted their politicians.

As for Italy – don’t even go there.

In Britain, meanwhile, 18 per cent of voters said they trusted their politicians in 1983.

This year it is 21 per cent.

So trust in our politicians has actually gone UP and is ahead of most other developed countries.

All the ‘scandals’ have made no difference whatsoever.

The current one about John Whittingdale could well be more evidence.

At one level it is about a UK Government minister having an affair with a prostitute.

At another it is about two single people getting together.

All this stuff about him being ultimately in charge of the media when they may have sat on the story is complete nonsense. It is a total confection to justify a sleazy story which makes headlines.

I remember the justification for exposing minister’s peccadilloes in the ‘80s, was that the affair would take his (and it usually was a ‘he’) mind off the proper job and he would be too exhausted to concentrate on Government papers.

Every journalist knew then it was complete nonsense and the same applies today.

This also begs another question.

How many of our most important politicians could stand up to today’s scrutiny?

Churchill had some dodgy financial affairs and was an assiduous user of tax havens.

Yet he was our most important statesman of the 20th century, and perhaps others.

The Welsh wizard, Lloyd George, was almost certainly a crook who devalued the honours system.

Yet he was also a brilliant politician, who introduced vital social reforms and took on the unelected house of Lords.

But it is claimed the only people who are trusted less in Britain than politicians are, er, journalists…

Phil Parry is Editor of the investigative website The Eye.

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