8 May 2014

How can MPs win the trust of mums?

Ever since dodgy dossiers and the spin which launched us into the Iraq war, trust in politics has been plummeting.

The expenses scandal merely confirmed voters’ views that politicians were a venal lot, out for themselves and to be kept at a distance.

You might think that as time passes, the relationship between the public and politicians might heal. But if what I’ve heard in the last few days is anything to go by, the reverse is actually the case.

08_cathy_mumdex_blogPicture credit: Amy Richards

Despite the many MPs trying valiantly to perform a public service, the political class is hated with a passion, more so now than ever before.

I’ve just returned from the launch of the “Mumdex” report by Asda. The supermarket chain gathered together a group of mums to find out what they wanted from politicians in the run up to the general election.

What struck me immediately was the scale of the disillusionment with politics. Just two per cent said they believe they’re “represented” by the political system.

And clearly parliamentarians are feeling the full force of that disapproval. The Tory peer Baroness Jenkin says during election campaigns, people “spit at you in the street because you’re wearing a rosette”.

Another MP I spoke to, who joined politics late from a different profession, told me she’d never felt so hated in her life.

Clearly a small minority of corrupt MPs have tarnished the prospects of the decent hard-working majority. But some of the Asda mums speaking at today’s event also criticised the media for reporting predominantly negative stories about parliament. Without wishing to usher in a new age of deference, I think they have a point.

Many women in particular fail to see the positive benefits they might gain from engaging in the political process because they find the mud-slinging and name-calling too much of a distraction.

They also see a House of Commons which is 75 per cent male and wonder what on earth it can do for them.

The Tory MP Harriett Baldwin stopped short of backing all-women shortlists today, but said all-male shortlists should be shunned in winnable seats.

Let’s see if party HQ takes up that idea and runs with it. Having a parliament which looks more like the country it’s supposed to represent might go some way to restoring trust. But it’s going to be a long haul.

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