LOSING SIGHT OF THE BIG PICTURE
As the expenses crisis wears on, I do worry that we are losing sight of the big picture. I don't for a second want to defend illegal or immoral behaviour, but when all the hubbub dies down, will we realise that we have yet again allowed the media to only tell part of the story?
Much of the criticism is absolutely valid, but it lacks a contextual understanding. The MPs I interact with are desperate to do a good job for their constituents. They are under-resourced, over-stretched, and stressed. The media spotlight on them is continuous. For most they have to work in two different geographical locations to the detriment of their family life and health. I want them to be better resourced. I don't want paranoid, exhausted, troubled people making my laws. I want them to have the support they need. None of this excuses anything, but at least starts to explain why folks are tempted to cut corners as many of us do when faced with the opportunity of spending money to create some much-needed time in our lives.
What folks also forget is how much intense relationship-building MPs have to do because of the way our system operates. I remember sitting in GP surgeries, waiting for the next person to come in through the door. You were never sure what was coming next, but at least you knew that the problem had a high probability of being medical. When you are an MP sitting in a surgery, the next person through the door could be ranting about planning permission, noisy neighbours, international development, health services, or UFOs. A GP at least has some weapons at their disposal - namely medical advice, drugs and hospital referrals. An MP is not part of the official running of a local area. They do not sit on the council or run the services. Any influence they have is based on relationships with key players and well-placed letters or phone calls. But building these relationships takes time, grace and energy. Mostly these servants need our support and prayers more than our critique.
My other fear is that in two years time will it be the case that only the rich will be able to afford to enter politics? Are we heading towards a more American scenario? I can't believe anyone seriously wants that. You can catch some more of my thinking on this on the front page of the Baptist Times this week.
Andy Flannagan, 22/05/2009