Thursday, 13 April 2017

Public misbehavior gives politicians a bad name

It is, to anyone who has been involved with politics in Stoke-on-Trent little surprise that Richard Broughan, councilor for Abbey Hulton and Townsend, has wound up in hot water, again. This time for an, alleged, incident at a community event, for which he has been reprimanded and sent for ‘further training’ by the council standards board.

I have met him in person just once and, suffice to say, the experience was not an inspiring one. It was at a hustings event in the run up to the general election and, to use the polite parliamentary euphemism, he had ‘lunched well’; very well. It was past six o’clock and he was still higher than the International Space Station.

This latest incident including, alleged, inappropriate remarks made to someone dressed as one of Santa’s elves has more than a touch of Benny Hill about it. That might encourage some people to laugh it off; I’m afraid I can’t join in.

Life isn’t a Carry On film, the sort of remark Sid James might have made in the sixties and got a laugh now, rightly, is seen as disrespectful of the person at whom it is aimed. It is also deeply disrespectful towards anyone, whatever their party, position or gender involved with politics.

It gives credence to the tired line that all politicians are either fools or chancers. Having been involved with local politics for almost two decades I know this is a long way from being true. Whatever differences we may have on policy political people in this city are united by a genuine desire to do their best for our city.

He may have an eccentric, to say the least, way of going about it, but I should think that at some level is true of Mr. Broughan too.

I don’t know what his ‘further training’ will consist of, if they let me near to the blackboard for a moment I’d suggest it comes down to one thing; the bond of trust between the public and their representatives.

The public outpouring of grief last year following the murder of Jo Cox showed how deep respect for an honorable politician can go. Few of the people who laid flowers for could have met Cox during her lifetime, what they responded to was her entirely genuine and unselfconscious belief that politicians have a duty to serve the interests of their constituents above all else.

I can think of notable local examples of the same ethos set by men like John Beech, Mick Williams and Graham Wallace. None of whom could be described as having been compliant party hacks or stony faced puritans, what they did all demonstrate though was a commitment to and connection with the people they served that was truly inspiring.

The public recoiled in disgust over the scandal of MPs expenses not because they had stopped believing in politics; but because they still believe it matters. What, rightly, enraged us all was that a handful of privileged practitioners within the charmed circle of Westminster so clearly didn’t.

Nobody would want to be led by paragons who are perfect in every respect. What we value in politicians is that they have the same flaws and frailties as we do, but have chosen to set them aside, as best they can, in the name of the common good.

Acting out in public isn’t comical it is sad for the person doing it and suggests a self -destructive impulse deserving of sympathy not indulgence. It also makes it all the harder for the majority of politicians who are just doing their best to get a fair hearing.

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