Last week MPs had the opportunity to debate the long awaited Chilcot Report about Tony Blair’s hugely controversial decision to take the country to war in 2003.
Millions marched against the war, the international community refused to support it, people from all walks of life made their voices heard in opposition to it, and still the invasion went ahead.
The term ‘failure’ runs throughout the report — for good reason. If a country’s politicians aren’t capable of scrutinising and halting such an obviously thin case for military action, why should we have faith in them at all?
Today Britain’s involvement in Iraq still casts a long shadow over how people relate to those in power. I don’t think there ever has been, or ever will be, a time when politicians are universally popular — but we have definitely seen an erosion of people’s trust in politicians since 2003.
A 2013 survey by Ipsos MORI found 80% of respondents do not trust politicians to tell the truth.
This is an attitude that I’ve witnessed on the doorsteps. I’ve met many people who reckon that politicians are “all the same” or “all as bad as each other” and for whom the whole political process is a pointless exercise.
The difficult truth is that the Chilcot Report shows us that public mistrust of politicians, especially high-profile celebrity leaders like Blair, can be justified.
When people see such cynicism from the very top, it’s understandable that they respond with a negative view in turn.
In 2003 I wasn’t involved in politics and didn’t have any ambitions in that direction, so I’ve done my share of complaining about the way things are run too.
So what can we do to change this? Breaking the cycle of a distant, negative, politics that seems to operate for its own sake, would be a start.
The presence of headline grabbing scandals and disasters means we often forget the countless examples of what politicians and communities can achieve when they resolve to work together to make things better.
I’ve always taken the view that people will judge me on what I do. I became involved in politics because I wanted to make a difference. In my experience most politicians share this motivation
While I may disagree on certain issues with my constituents, I know that it’s still my job to seek to represent them. This balancing act can be tough, but it’s what politicians at all levels of government should aspire to.
As the Chilcot Report reminds us: there are major weaknesses in the British political system. Yet that system has one great strength — the close link between MPs and their constituencies.
These are uncertain times, but it is in such times that remaining rooted in your own part of the world becomes more important.
So we all have a duty to demand that politicians continue to listen to the people they represent. This is the only certain way to prevent political failure on such an epic scale.