Politicians occaisionally go around wringing their hands, bemoaning the fact that the general populace don’t hold them in high regard (usually just after nobody bothers to vote at European elections). They usually flail around, looking for reasons for our general contempt for them, blaming politics for “not being exciting”, the media for portraying them in a bad light, and so on. But recently I’ve realised what makes me dislike politicians more than anything else – their complete impunity.
Impunity – Exemption from punishment, penalty, or harm.
Politicians earn a fair amount of money. But they get to employ staff as well, and often their partner or children get hired. But seeing as nobody ever suggests that they’d be better off hiring professional staff, instead of just using it as a dodge to earn more money, they get away with it year after year. Impunity.
If you’re a European parliamentarian, you can claim travel expenses for journeys to the parliament. But – sickeningly – you don’t actually have to spend the money to claim it back. So if you spend £100 on EasyJet, you can claim £250 for a BA flight you didn’t take. And that’s the rules. Last time I heard that they were going to change it, the politicians were demanding something like a 60% pay rise to compensate. Impunity.
David Blunkett resigned from government under a cloud for fiddling with the immigration system while he was in charge of it. But he’s back already (and continuing to be a prick, too). Peter Mandalson did similar things in the past – broke the rules, resigned, and then bounced back. Impunity.
We went to war in Iraq after having been given dodgy information from the Prime Minister and others. And now we know how dodgy it was, nobody has apologised, or resigned over the matter. Soldiers were buying their own boots, and struggling with dodgy equipment, but nobody took the blame. Impunity.
They don’t minute meetings in Downing Street, despite having the most important meetings in the country. This has been brought up in at least three enquiries that I know of, including the most recent one into the forced collapse of Railtrack. But it’s convenient for the politians to be able to weasel their way out of situations, so they don’t minute things. Hell, I even minute our team meetings at work, and they aren’t exactly the most important meetings happening in London on a particulary day. Impunity.
I could go on, but I’m not going to. But if politicians want to work out why we all hold them in contempt, think that they’re a waste of space and don’t turn out to decide which prat gets the cushy job this time, then they should stand up and take responsibility now and then. And that doesn’t mean saying “I take full responsibility”, optionally going on holiday for 4 months, and then jumping straight back in as if nothing had happened.