Letter from the Editor: Our view of MPs has been tested to breaking point


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The Independent Online

Over the past few parliaments, the reputation of our MPs has taken a battering. The sleazy 1990s were followed by the Iraq War, launched on shoddy intelligence, and against which a million of us marched, to no avail.

Then in quick succession came an expenses crisis which showed many politicians stealing from the public purse, and a financial crisis which wasn’t caused by the poor, but for which they picked up the bill.

And in all that time this newspaper has resisted the caricature of our political class as a bunch of grubby apparatchiks on the take. We believe very strongly in democracy, and reckon that for all its failings, Britain’s democracy is relatively free of corruption. We’ve also argued that though Westminster has its share of crooks, many if not most MPs are decent, industrious, public-spirited types who could get paid better elsewhere.

I have to say, this week has tested that view, and our patience, to breaking point. Both the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, and the response of Labour, were so utterly inadequate, so completely brazen in their refusal to be straight with the public, that it is getting very hard indeed to defend any of the main parties. For all his talk of “difficult decisions”, there is no hiding the fact that George Osborne has repeatedly missed his targets on borrowing. A full 60 per cent of the cuts in public spending are still to come, reducing state spending as a share of GDP to its lowest level for 80 years. And where are these cuts, with all the impact on jobs and livelihoods, going to fall? On this, the detail was woefully absent, from all three main parties.

Nor was there any sort of attempt, on either side of the Commons, to address the shocking truth about our economic recovery, reflected across the developed world – namely, that the link between growth, wages and productivity has been broken, so that ever more capital – or wealth – is going to ever fewer at the top. Add into this mix unfunded tax cuts to the tune of billions, and you can’t help feeling that MPs are trying to hoodwink us.

There are no consolations in this state of affairs, but we are lucky in Britain to at least have a media who are free to tell it like it is. I am biased, but I hope you share my feeling that in the run-up to a general election, a newspaper founded on the idea of commitment to truth over tribe is a useful bulwark against the cowardice and dissembling of our hated MPs. If they won’t be straight with the public, we certainly will.