It is no wonder politicians get a bad name. If you buy some Marks & Spencer underwear and find there is a hole where one shouldn’t be, you can return to the shop and you’ll get your money back.
All sorts of retailers build up a reputation for excellent customer service, and those that don’t lose business, and can even go under because of it. That’s the way the market works. Good service drives out bad.
It’s all a matter of trust. You know what the deal is and the retailer keeps the bargain so you give it more custom.
No such luck with politicians. Time and again they make their sales pitch, we buy their wares by voting for them – and we find their promises aren’t kept. We complain and what do they do? They laugh at us.
There’s no shame, no contrition, and if we get an apology it’s as sincere as a Bruce Forsyth smile. The result of this is that the stock of politicians with the British public is very, very low. Respect is not a word you hear much these days when people talk about politicians, and this week we had another example of why.
All parties have their dubious characters and shady back-room operators that would sell their soul for their next long lunch. But in the last few years one party has made insincerity a fine art and elevated double-dealing above fairness. That party is the Liberal Democrats.
The Tories, Labour, the SNP – all of them have one reason or another to hang their heads in shame, but since the 2010 general election the Liberal Democrat MPs have lost all sense of what they once stood for and appear only interested in power for its own sake.
It is a long time since the party deserved to be called Liberal and now it cannot be considered Democratic.
Why do I say this? This week the Liberal Democrats voted with Labour to prevent the Westminster parliamentary boundaries being redrawn in time for the 2015 general election.
The 2010 election was fought on boundaries set in 2000, come the next election they will be 15 years old. This is not fair to the electorate for it means votes are not of equal value.
The largest mainland constituency is East Ham in London with 91,531 registered voters – the smallest in England is Wirral West with just 55,077 – in Scotland it is Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross with 47,572. There are many variations in between. It doesn’t matter who the electors vote for, the point is that the votes are so unevenly distributed that there is no balance, no equality – no fairness.
And yet fairness is what Liberal Democrats say they are all about. Indeed, it was Nick Clegg who oversaw the boundary review. He authorised millions of pounds of tax- payers’ money spent in this age of austerity to conduct it – and then told his fellow Lib Dems to vote against it, to vote against his own coalition!
Why? His official reason is that the Tories are the ones who broke their word, the ones who went back on the coalition deal. Unfortunately for Clegg, there is a document that he and David Cameron signed up to and it makes it quite explicit he is telling porkies. The coalition agreement said that in return for the Conservatives agreeing to a referendum on proportional representation the Liberal Democrats would agree to having the boundaries made more fair (why any party would need to trade to extract a price for “fairness” beats me, but there you are).
The Tories delivered the referendum on voting reform but the British public threw out the Lib Dems’ hair-brained scheme.
Then, Clegg tied the boundary changes to Lords reform. Again the Tories kept to what they had signed up to in the agreement – they brought Clegg’s proposals to the floor of the House, as they said they would. They never agreed to support them – but to have a free vote – and so that proposal also fell as unworkable and unwanted.
In a fit of pique, Clegg resolved that the boundary changes, which would benefit the Tories – but more importantly would make voting fairer – must be voted down. Like his promise to students on tuition fees, Clegg was shown to be the most untrustworthy politician in the land.
Liberal Democrats have repeatedly walked through the lobbies and voted for 500,000 public sector job cuts – but this week would not support cutting the number of MPs by a meagre 50.
But what does Clegg care? The possibility of a hung parliament in the next election is now more likely thanks to his act of treachery.
Despite having crashed the car, Labour is tipped to get the keys back to drive it over another cliff, but they may not have a majority and who is hoping to be in the passenger seat with them?
Step forward the Right Dishonourable Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats, the Rat-ners of politics. Hopefully, they’ll be shut down in 2015.