Leading article: A question to ponder over the long summer break

As MPs head off on holiday, they should focus on public disenchantment

Share
Related Topics

British MPs begin their 12-week summer break today. They may feel that they deserve it after what most of them see as the most gruelling parliamentary sessions that even the most long-serving of them can remember. The scandals over MPs' expenses have delivered a series of severe blows to the psyches of our parliamentarians. But they should not make the mistake of assuming that it is over now.

They have been careful to be modest in their destinations. Few are announcing trips to the Caribbean or Seychelles. More modest holiday spots are in vogue – France, Spain, Italy, Greece, Ireland and Scotland – the kind of places preferred by the average voter who gets only four weeks of holiday a year. The Prime Minister, once a regular summer visitor to the United States, is setting the tone with a jaunt to the Lake District.

But politicians are wary that, as David Cameron (Greece and Brittany) puts it, the long summer break may bring Parliament into disrepute. That could be more than a round of media stories about lazy MPs sunning themselves at taxpayers' expense while the rest of the nation struggles with recession. Some of them have tried to get their retaliation in first by pointing out that 57 days of the 82-day recess are supposed to be working days in which they dedicate themselves to the constituency matters to which they have been too busy to attend during the parliamentary session. A recess is not a holiday, they point out.

They should be careful not to misjudge the public mood. There is more to this than the rather juvenile antics of a new campaign group which has set up an MP Holiday Watch asking people to send in reports of MPs at work and at play to uncover how much time they spend on the beach, or undertaking second jobs, and how much time they devote to constituency work. The problem goes well beyond suspicion of the venality of a few expense-scamming, holiday-skiving individuals.

Public disenchantment with politics has plumbed a new depth. Trust in politicians is at its lowest on record. The more time MPs spend with constituents over the summer the more they will realise the extent to which engagement with the very political process has fallen into disrepute.

Analysing the problem, however, is far easier than coming up with a solution. Writing here about the need for constitutional reform yesterday, we called for changes to the voting system, a stronger and more independent parliamentary select committee system, reforms to the second chamber and a greater devolution of power to communities. But that alone will not be enough.

There is need today for a psychological or cultural shift too. It is interesting that opinion polls show low levels of satisfaction with the work of local councils even though the Audit Commission suggests that they are doing a good job. More revealingly, almost three in four members of the public admit that they have little idea of what their council is doing – and yet they are happy to proclaim themselves dissatisfied with it.

A powerful disconnect has occurred. It is not powered by mere facts nor by the detail of MPs' misdemeanours, much of which is far more trivial than the resulting public outrage ought to warrant. Our MPs need to spend their holidays wondering why the British public is rejecting the political process – and ask themselves what can be done about it. Otherwise, at the end of their long summer break, voters might start saying: we have done without them for this long, do we really need them all back?

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Consultant

£50000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Urgently seeking a Dynam...

Test Lead - Financial Reporting - Banking - London

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: Test Lead, London, Banking, Financial Reporting, ...

Business Analyst, Retail Bank, £375-400p/d

£375 - £400 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Embedded Software Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + V. Competitive : Progressive Recruitment: Embedded...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Are we politely looking the other way when it comes to Kate, the ever-shrinking Duchess?

Grace Dent
 

The daily catch-up: art of the unapology, a bet on UKIP and printer ink molecules

John Rentoul
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game