Public trust in politics

I opened the newspapers this morning to see a picture of my opposite number, Jack Straw, brandishing a petition against post office closures in his constituency.

Which is all very well, but it's the Government's orders which are forcing the branch closures in the first place, and he is a senior member of that Government.

We've seen the same thing with Labour Ministers protesting against hospital cuts in their constituencies, while arguing that it's quite right to ‘reconfigure' services everywhere else.

Of course they want to represent their constituents.  But if Ministers believe that a policy is wrong, they have the power in government to change it.

Public trust in politics, which has already been so badly damaged, is only corroded further when politicians make cynical promises.

There's no better example of a promise broken than the one to hold a referendum on the EU Constitution.

This week thousands of people - including many from West Sussex - came to lobby Parliament to demand the say we were all promised.

When I spoke to the protestors at a meeting in Westminster this week, I said that the refusal to grant a referendum was doubly wrong.

It's wrong because the people should have a say on fundamental constitutional proposals such as the creation of a permanent EU President - Blair, perhaps?

But it's also wrong because every candidate - including Gordon Brown - stood on a manifesto promise at the last election for a referendum.

Two weeks ago, Jack Straw went over to Washington and called for a written British constitution in the future.

Of course, he said, the people would have to agree in a referendum.

So we'll all have a vote on a British Constitution which hasn't even been dreamt up yet.  But we can't have a say on the EU Constitution now, even though a referendum was promised to us at the time.

Why should anyone believe him?

Michelle Taylor