There was the start of an interesting discussion on Radio 4’s Today Programme this morning about celebrity independent candidates standing at the next General Election. I say “the start” because it did not really pursue the issue to its logical conclusion. There is no question that public anger with politicians of all Parties is now at unprecedented levels following the expenses revelations in recent weeks.
Two backbench MPs (one Labour, one Conservative – neither of whom have been named in any of the national newspaper articles so far) I was with a week ago were already traumatised by the reactions that they had faced in their constituencies. Some MPs are said to be suicidal.
There are the stories that Esther Rantzen is prepared to offer her services to the nation (whether the nation will accept her offer remains to be seen). Joanna Lumley is on her way to political sainthood. Jeremy Clarkson has already been touted as a possible Prime Minister.
Where will it all end?
All the mainstream political parties have to face up to the fact that so far the public do not think they have done enough to clean up politics. If a well-financed campaign (will the Barclay brothers be prepared to follow through what their newspaper has started?) centred round a popular and plausible figurehead, started now with a stated mission to purify the political system, it could by the time a General Election is called later this year or in the spring of 2010 have built up enough momentum to overturn the current orthodoxy.
Some may say that would be a good thing (Guido for example?). However, the danger is that such a popular ‘revolution’ may throw up untested (maybe unknown) individuals that turn out to be far more venal than any of the MPs who have been named and shamed (UKIP’s track record on expenses in the European Parliament is hardly exemplary). More significantly, the existing established political parties each have their own guiding philosophy and history and, whilst many would say that this is blurred these days (Is Cameron the heir to Thatcher or Blair? What do the LibDems really believe? Is Gordon New Labour? Is New Labour Labour etc?), what would any new “Clean Hands” Party stand for apart from the overturning of the existing order? What is more would what it stands for be subjected to any scrutiny at all in an election focussing on the alleged venalities of the existing Parliament and the mainstream political Parties?
Some people – and the newspapers – should be careful what they wish for.