Published on 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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3 reader comments

  1. Philip Edwards says:

    Cathy,

    I can’t believe you are as surprised by this as your blog implies.

    Nor do I believe you think this is limited to “mums.”

    The fact is we no longer live in a genuine democracy. We are governed by a single authoritarian right-wing party with different factions. Party labels are virtually meaningless, elections little more than a fees generating exercise for public relations firms (read: trained liars). “Debates” are little more than tenth rate cheap exercises in jeering by a gang of corrupt charlatans. Politicians are mere mouthpieces for the spivs who profit from the disgusting society they created. You could count the number of honourable politicians on the fingers of one hand. They have thoroughly earned the title of Parliament of Scoundrels.

    And it will get worse. Much, much worse.

  2. HisRoyalNumptyness says:

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

    What on earth does the gender of a politician have to do with anything?

    Are ‘they’ a group of paranoiacs who think men, as a whole, hate women?

  3. Andrew Dundas says:

    Every Labour Party parliamentary selection includes at least one woman applicant and a ethnic minority one too. The effect is to reduce often the number of well qualified applicants from five down to three. I believe other Parties try to follow the same pattern.
    Increasing the number of MPs who are women has, so far, neither improved the quality of national policy-making nor standards of personal integrity.
    There has been enormous and rapid social and political change in the last hundred years. We forget that it’s only since 1930 that the UK became a modern democracy with a full franchise of all adult citizens. And only in the last c. 120 years that women have transformed from having an average of five babies and two miscarriages to having the freedom and education to be much more than homemakers. Coincidently, military service and sacrifice for men has diminished equally dramatically. Transformations that have profound implications. Those transformations amount to the greatest social change since the aftermath of the bubonic plagues of the 14th century. These days people usually live into their 70s: another massive change. We haven’t adapted yet to the implications of all these changes.
    Every time we discriminate against someone in order to take affirmative action in favour of someone else (who maybe is less qualified), we make enemies and we provide perverse incentives to the categories we’ve sought to favour. Knowing that an organisation ‘has to’ appoint someone is a powerful and negative incentive on their future performances.
    Finally, we should give some credit to the great religions of our world who tell us that everyone is corruptible and selfish. It’s no surprise that human politicians are subject to the same failings as we are.

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