I think that the Mail called the big picture on the political implications of the British Social Attitudes survey right yesterday. While the banks are seriously unpopular right now, the public reject higher spending and don't want higher taxes. Even if they are bashing the rich, tax hikes only get 40 per cent support. As the authors of the survey put it: "support for increased taxation and spending is at an all time low". Hopefully, at the TaxPayers' Alliance we've done something to persuade people.
Another of that surveys' results seemed particularly telling this morning though. Public trust in politicians is falling to new lows:
"Four in ten say that they “almost never” trust governments to put the national interest first, six points above the previous all-time high of 34% in 2006 – and around four times as high as the readings obtained in the late 1980s (11% in 1987)."
There are big policy choices that might explain why the public are sceptical that their governments put the national interest first. But I think the main reason people are so disillusioned is that the political system is just so rotten, and little glimmers of accountability never last. It all just looks like a self-interested game.
I can think of lots of issues that the public might expect Conservative backbenchers to be angry with the coalition Government about: tax hikes; more lenient sentencing policy; defence cuts; incredible surrenders of powers to the European Union. Reading Paul Goodman's article on Monday though, it seems that the issue they are most angry about is IPSA. In other words, their own expenses. That is going to strike people as pretty pathetic.
Another example came up this morning. Over a number of months Andrew Allison has been running a TaxPayers' Alliance campaign against an incredible waste of money in the East Riding of Yorkshire:
"In March, I received a phone call from Alexandra Wood, a reporter from the Yorkshire Post. She told me the East Riding of Yorkshire Council were about to pay £364,205 into the pension pot of Sue Lockwood, the Corporate Resources Director. She wanted to take early retirement, and this discretionary payment was going to be made to enhance her pension.
At a time when we are being told to tighten our belts and when community groups are being told there isn’t any money to help them, the council’s leadership thought it was fitting to spend our money to enhance the pension of one member of staff!"
A few weeks ago, we found out that the councillors responsible had, after a serious investigation, been deselected. It looked like justice had been done for once and the accountability might really force councillors to stop wasting money or risk losing comfortable posts. Unfortunately the decision has now been reversed after an appeal process Andrew describes as "farcical". That glimmer of accountability just dissapeared.
It increasingly looks like the politicians aren't working for us, they are working for themselves. We just pay their wages and allowances.