Friday, May 29, 2009

Independents ‘can restore credibility’ to political life

TERRY WAITE, the former special envoy to the Archbishop of Canter bury, said this week that he would consider standing as an independent MP.

Writing in The Times on Wednesday, he said that he had been asked to do so “frequently”, but had always so far refused. If he changed his mind, it would be to encourage reform.

Referring to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s warning on Saturday that MPs were being unduly humiliated by the publicity over their expenses claims, Mr Waite said: “Much as I applaud the Archbishop of Canterbury’s personal concern for individuals, he must also be aware that this crisis, no matter how unpleasant, could be just the very thing the country needs.”

On Saturday, Dr Williams said that the issues raised by the controversy over MPs’ expenses were “as grave as could be for our parliamentary democracy”. Writing in The Times, he asked whether the “continuing systematic humiliation of politicians” now threatened to ex tract a heavy price by reducing public confidence in democracy.

Regulating MPs’ expenses, im port ant though it was, could not be the whole answer. Regulation took the place of virtue, and was an excuse for not encouraging intelligence and good will among the MPs (“or bankers or whoever”) in the first place, Dr Williams wrote.

“If we are to recover trust in our political class, we need to know some thing about what they are glad to do for its own sake — because, though we often forget it, this is one of the surest tests of virtue.”

Jonathan Bartley, the co-director of the Christian think tank Ekklesia, said last week that independent politicians could do much to restore credibility to British politics. A survey commissioned by Ekklesia found that 78 per cent of the 1010 voters it questioned said that inde pendent candidates should stand at the next General Election against MPs who had behaved unethically.

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