Tom Richmond: It’s foolish to expect trust until public told the truth

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STOP treating the public as fools – and be more candid. That is my advice to Britain’s political masters as trust and respect for the main parties ebbs away.

This personal plea comes at the midway point of an exasperating month where the evasiveness of senior politicians on three occasions has served to further fracture the relationship between the country’s leaders and the people that they purport to serve.

I’m not even convinced they even believe the words coming out of their mouths.

It began with Yvette Cooper and the Shadow Home Secretary’s assertion that the Labour leader Ed Miliband is doing “a good job”. The Pontefract and Castleford MP is clearly in a parallel universe.

Then there was the sight of George Osborne rushing to the nearest TV camera to claim victory in Britain’s battle with Brussels over a £1.7bn budget surcharge imposed by EU. This sleight of hand was so disingenuous that it must have come straight out of the Gordon Brown political handbook.

Why couldn’t the Chancellor simply say that he had managed to delay the payments – and then outline the compromise that he reached with Europe’s finance ministers. I presume that he, too, is spooked by Ukip’s probable victory in next week’s Rochester and Strood by-election.

And then there was Home Secretary Theresa May’s inept handling of the renewal of the European Arrest Warrant that led to chaotic scenes in the House of Commons. Why couldn’t she have said that this was her intention and challenged her backbenchers not to allow their Euroscepticism to compromise law and order on these islands? It would have been far less damaging than the rebellion sparked by her cack-handedness.

To me, these three examples – there are plenty more – epitomise why the public hold politicians in such low-esteem. They do not like their intelligence being insulted by leaders who choose to be so economical with the truth.

It also leads me to conclude that it will take a generation for respect to be restored and far-reaching reforms are required if trust is to be restored.

My suggestion? Follow Scotland’s example and lower the voting age to 16. Why? As the recent referendum on independence proved, teenagers took their responsibilities seriously and became engaged in the political process.

If the same happens south of the border, it could bring about the emergence of a new generation of voters who are engaged in politics from the outset of their adult lives – and who are then prepared to make a positive contribution to the country’s future governance.

Far form dumbing down politics, I can only see this having a positive impact.

HAVE ‘Cameron’ and ‘Conservative’ become dirty words in the marginal Pudsey constituency as local MP Stuart Andrew steps up his re-election campaign?

I only ask after I received a glossy eight-page election leaflet that featured no fewer than 14 photographs of the Tory backbencher on his local patch.

Curiously, there was no mention whatsoever of David Cameron – supposedly the Conservatives’ best asset – and just a cursory reference to Mr Andrew’s meeting with the ‘Chancellor of the Exchequer’ over links to Leeds Bradford Airport. It appears George Osborne is also persona non grata.

The only references to Mr Andrew’s party were a fleeting reference to “local Conservative councillors” on page two – and the small-print on the back page which confirmed the billet doux had, in fact, been produced on behalf of Pudsey, Horsforth and Aireborough Conservatives.

Why does this matter? Mr Andrew captured this bellwether seat off Labour in 2010 by 1,659 votes and is said to be vulnerable if his supporters switch to Ukip. Tory strategist Lord Ashcroft recently predicted a dead-heat in Pudsey, which would be sufficient to hand the keys of 10 Downing Street to Ed Miliband.

I just wonder whether this Tory hopes his diligence locally is a greater asset than the Tory government’s record and will be replicated by others – especially those not expecting Ministerial advancement and in no mood to curry favour with their political superiors. Time will tell.

I’M not surprised that Ed Miliband shunted his transport spokeswoman Mary Creagh to the sidelines minutes after she led a Commons debate on the future of local bus services.

As Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin gleefully pointed out, it was the first Opposition-led debate on transport since the Wakefield MP was appointed 15 months previously.

It also shows the folly of reshuffling politicians for the sake of appearances. To her credit, Ms Creagh was an effective Shadow Environment Secretary – she was winning respect and recognition for her diligence – but struggled at transport. Was it because of a lack of interest? I don’t know. Perhaps she was compromised on HS2 by the reluctance of Ed Balls to embrace high-speed rail – or stymied by Labour’s failure to determine its budget priorities.

Whatever the reason, I’m sure Ms Creagh will find the international development brief more stimulating – and especially the challenge of ensuring overseas aid is spent more wisely.

HOW ironic that the London-based BBC and others did not pick up on the significance of Prince Charles’s call to arms for rural areas – and his warning that landscapes, farmers, village pubs and local food will be lost unless Britain funds “a way to put a value on our countryside, with all its facets”. Here’s an idea – how about moving the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs out of the capital so it is closer to the people that it purports to serve?

I’M afraid that I am already weary of the over-commercialisation of Christmas – and it is not yet the season of Advent.

I won’t be returning to the Ilkley fashion shop that saw fit to play tacky festive music on Remembrance Day last Sunday. Nor will I be watching ITV1 on Christmas Day when an Oxo advert featuring the late Lynda Bellingham is to be screened as a tribute to the much-loved actress who recently lost her brave fight against cancer.

Premier Foods, which owns the Oxo brand, claim that “hundreds of thousands of Lynda’s fans” back this. Really?

And then there is Tesco in Horsforth selling Hot Cross Buns this week. No wonder the supermarket giant is in financial trouble if its purchase teams are confusing Christmas with Easter...

tom.richmond@ypn.co.uk

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