Why don't we trust our politicians?

Surveying the latest polling, our Letters Editor wonders aloud whether we need better politicians or a better relationship with the ones we've already got

Share

Don’t  bother to read this, because you probably
won’t believe a word of it. That is unless you belong to the 21 per cent of the
public who trust journalists to tell the truth, according to the latest Ipsos
MORI Trust Poll
.

But even we lying, drunken, sleazy hacks do better than politicians, who come bottom of the poll at 18 per cent. That is a terrifying number, which helps to explain another terrifying number: the turnout at the Eastleigh by-election. Here was a sensationally exciting election, with the two Coalition parties standing against each other and the result impossible to predict. And the turnout just managed to stagger above 50 per cent. It is not easy to believe that we live in a healthy democracy.

Here are some more figures. Top of the poll come doctors (trusted to tell the truth by 89 per cent), teachers (86), scientists (83) and judges (82). So far so good. Then come a  strange pair: television news readers  (69) and clergy (66). The police are trusted by 65 per cent and civil servants by 53 per cent.

Hang on a minute. No doubt the police and civil servants are, by and large, worthy of our trust. Most of them work conscientiously for the public good, and society could not function without them.  But if you love liberty, do not forget that these are the people who wield the coercive power of the state. In fascist and communist regimes  it is the police and the civil service who work the machinery of tyranny.

Allow me to  remind you of how our great unwritten constitution is supposed to work. Taxation cannot be levied without the approval of the House of Commons –  that has been so since the 15 century. So the Queen’s government cannot do its job without the approval of Parliament. MPs, who represent the people, thus have the power to hold the executive  –  ministers, civil servants, the whole apparatus of the state –  to account.  Hence the grillings ministers and civil servants get at the hands of Commons select committees.

So, quis custodiet ipsos custodes? What stops us succumbing to fascism? Whose job is it to make sure that you, an innocent citizen, cannot have your property arbitrarily seized by the Government; cannot be banged up in a police cell and tortured for opposing that government – as people  still can be in many countries.  In our system, those duties fall primarily on the judges and MPs.

The judges seem to be in good shape (trusted by 82 per cent). But I submit that in a country where police officers  and civil servants are trusted more than politicians – about three times as much in fact - civil liberty is nothing like as secure as it ought to be.

Do we need better politicians, or do we need better to appreciate the ones we have?

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sales Consultants - OTE up to £35,000

£15000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Franchise Operations Manager - Midlands or North West

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The position will be home based...

Recruitment Genius: Hotel and Spa Duty Manager

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are friendly, sociable, ...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This independent publishing and...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: the Greeks can stay in the euro or end ‘austerity’, but not both

John Rentoul
The old 1,000 Greek drachma notes and current 20 euros  

Greece debt crisis: History shows 'new drachma' is nothing to fear

Sean O'Grady
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue