It has become apparent that, sadly, the public has lost almost all trust and hope in their politicians. This has been shown, predominantly, in the large numbers of people worryingly rejecting their right to a democratic vote in elections. The idea that Members of Parliament should earn a higher salary has also been widely rejected by the general public, mainly because MPs are not seen to be deserving of a higher salary. Although forgiven, the MPs expenses scandal has not been forgotten. Besides this, politicians are no longer regarded as representing or being representative of the public that they represent in Parliament, and this goes for all three major political parties. In order to tackle political apathy, the public needs to feel that they have a valued democratic voice and, therefore, politicians that will value and listen to these voices.
Our government has implemented policies that are designed to save as much money as possible, without harming the relationships that promote their own political gain. To be specific, the recent government rejection of plain cigarette packaging and a minimum price of alcohol, has received much criticism from those who argue that David Cameron has bowed down to the pressures of Lynton Crosby. Both the National Health Service and the Education System have been hit hard in terms of the changes that they face in order to save money. Although some of these changes are necessary, such as the push for shorter patient waiting times in the NHS, many proposals such as involving the private sector in the NHS to introduce competition for services have been rejected by doctors, nurses, and GPs. Likewise within the education system where professors, teachers, and students have been dismayed at plans to narrow the national curriculum and triple university tuition fees. We therefore find ourselves constantly asking the question: Why is the government ignoring the pleas of the public and the professions?
The argument that politicians no longer represent the people strengthens when we consider the idea that the recent economic crisis has made us more power hungry and less empathetic than ever before. 35 of the 2010 intake of politicians in the House of Commons have a degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE) from Oxford University, a university which a sixth (108) of our politicians attended. To extend from this, 22% of politicians are women, a stark contrast from the 52% of the population that are women, 4% are black or ethnic compared to 8% of the population, and finally, the 7% of the public which is privately educated at secondary school level, have an overwhelming representation in Parliament of 34%. These figures undoubtedly show an unrepresentative Parliament. Yet the demographic of our Parliament is not the only change that is needed in order to make it more representative. The current first-past-the-post voting system is not proportional to how the public votes and the House of Lords remains unelected.
Many politicians have never had a job outside of the world of Parliament and some Secretaries of State have actually never been employed in the sectors that they are in charge of, namely Jeremy Hunt in the health profession and Michael Gove in education. It is consequently very easy for these politicians to make huge sector cuts without realising the damage that they could be creating. As of 2010, there are six former doctors in the Commons, one of whom is Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston who found the recent decision to drop a minimum alcohol price and plain packaging for tobacco “very disappointing.” If the government is not listening to the worries of a professional in its own party, how can the public expect the government to listen to anyone who opposes its own agenda?
Due to the idea that the politicians are not listening to the public, the public needs to become the politicians. Parliament needs more nurses, teaching assistants, shop-keepers, bus drivers, and artists to offer their knowledge and experience of the ‘outside world’; people who will listen to the troubles of their constituents because they themselves have had the same troubles, come from the same backgrounds. It needs people who do not have a degree and people who are not business owners. Essentially, Parliament needs people who will listen to the public because they are the public. Politics should not be a place for the power hungry or for those who simply want to have a grand salary. It should be a place where normal people can make progressive change in the interests of everyone and not a select few. That is true democracy.
By Soila Apparicio