Many MPs and journalists have been worrying about the damage that the Telegraph‘s daily exposés are having on the reputation of Parliament. Iain Dale, writing about his friend Nadine Dorries’ treatment by the Daily Telegraph, questioned, as have many other commentators, for how much longer the media frenzy can continue:
The Telegraph is publishing yet another raft of allegations against MPs tomorrow. I suspect they will soon have reached the limit of their readers’ patience… And I do think their readers will soon tire of this constant stream of allegations. That is not to say they are wrong to print any more, but their editorial team will be very conscious that at some stage they will reach a tipping point.
Iain Dale later wrote that he had refused an offer to appear on a programme discussing which group is worse: bankers or MPs? Yet this question really gets to the heart of the matter and stimulated this article. Quite simply, cantankerous doesn’t believe the public will tire of MP-baiting until there is a general election.
The truth is that, until recently, the British public couldn’t have cared less about MP’s expenses, Fred Goodwin’s salary, the sustainability of the bubble, the inflation-busting ‘total compensation packages’ of the public, private and media sector elite, or even the tax avoidance of the super-rich. The public believed that the good times would go on forever on the never-never, that house prices would go ever higher, that PFI was magic, that unemployment was only for the unwashed and that Gordon Brown had really abolished boom and bust. They even believed that half the country could work for the State and get paid more than the private sector without the government’s finances spiralling out of control.
Members of the public and Members of Parliament believed they, indeed all of us, could be selfish and we’d all be richer and happier. Of course, the public now knows the truth, and this week MPs have been forced to see it too. Yet the public is unable to achieve the change it wants and that we all know is unavoidable. It wants a general election and it wants it now. It doesn’t want the unelected and tarnished Prime Minister it had foisted upon it. The media bloodbath will continue until the polls open, with the blogosphere ensuring that the media and political elites cannot close ranks. There is no Oliver Cromwell to tell this rump of a Parliament that ”You are no Parliament”, that:
You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately … Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!
These are fascinating times. When Gordon Gekko in Oliver Stone’s Wall Street, way back in 1987, said that ‘Greed is Good’ audiences were shocked, even years into Thatcher’s revolution. Today, after the Blair years of selfishness, greed and corruption, the tide has turned. The oft-predicted Middle Class Tax Revolt is underway; it is not simply concerned with an unjust tax burden, it is about restoring ethics and morals in the public sphere. Adam Smith’s The Theory of Moral Sentiments has become as important reading as his The Wealth of Nations. MPs have been mystified as their claims to have ‘obeyed the rules’ have been derided by the public. Quite simply, the concept of right and wrong, as well as consideration of what works, has returned to the politics of the UK, after an absence of more than a decade. Now, the political parties must respond.