Why do people hate me?

19th September, 2012 6:17 pm

In the next few weeks I’ll be spending time with people in a bingo hall in Nottinghamshire, a golf club in Bradford, a warehouse in Derby, a tenants and residents association in London and I’ll be meeting with mums in a part of Manchester where voter turnout is frighteningly low. Yesterday I spent the morning in Billericay, Essex at a Jazzercise class (aerobics to jazz music). Wherever I go and whoever I talk to I’ll be asking the simple question – why do people hate me? Not me personally, but me the politician.

Research conducted by commentator and pollster Peter Kellner, Democracy on Trial, revealed the scale of the problem. It showed some alarming results – just 12% of the 5000 British adults surveyed think ‘Parliament does a good job of understanding the daily lives of people like you’, 53% said ‘the quality of our politicians’ was the thing they liked least about Britain’s political system.

66% backed the statement, ‘however they start out, most MPs end up becoming remote from the everyday lives and concerns of the people they represent’ and a massive 62% agreed that ‘politicians tell lies all the time – you can’t believe a word they say’.

My research may not be scientific but I’m after something different – I want to hear peoples raw emotions, I want to hear the disillusionment in their own words. I want to see how and whether a variety of groups feel differently about politics.

Some may say that I’m wasting my time –  that voters always have and always will display a healthy scepticism towards politics and politicians. But the British Social Attitudes survey suggests things are getting much worse when it comes to whose interests the public believe politicians put first. After each General Election since 1987, the Social Attitudes survey has asked people how much they ‘trust British governments of any party to place the needs of the nation above the interest of their political party’. In 1987 47% said governments did this ‘just about always’ or ‘most of the time’. By 2010 the figure was 20%.

Don’t get me wrong – politicians know there’s an issue – we chat about it in the tea rooms of Westminster. My ears pricked up when in his first Conference speech as Labour leader Ed Miliband  said ‘Politics is basically broken’. We all know there’s a problem. To be fair there are some steps to tackle this like Jon Trickett’s work to find more working class MPs or Hazel Blears Parliamentary scheme to get people from different backgrounds working in Parliament. It’s a stark fact that for all the steps we have made in improving women’s and ethnic minority representation we have collectively gone backwards in terms of working class representation.

So these are the sorts of questions I’m asking :

  • What do you think when I say the word politician?
  • What kind of people become politicians?
  • Can u paint a picture of one – appearance, accent, age?
  • What do politicians do?
  • Have you ever met a politician?
  • What qualities do u need to be a politician?
  • How do you become a politician?
  • Would you become a politician?
  • Do u think politicians care about people like you?
  • Who do politicians work for?
  • What would need to happen to make politics relevant to you?
  • How much do u think they are paid?
  • Do you vote?

All those I met yesterday at the Billericay Jazzercise always used their vote, so in that sense they weren’t especially disengaged, but none thought we really understood the reality of their lives. As I continue my research over the coming weeks ill find out how this disillusionment manifests itself amongst many different groups – groups that politicians don’t always engage with. I’m not saying I’ll have all the right answers but I’m pretty sure that these questions have got to be asked.

Gloria De Piero is the Labour MP for Ashfield

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  • AlanGiles

    I think it is not very surprising that people feel politicians are out of touch with everyday life, because, to many ordinary people, they are.

    Take the person on the already grudged by politicians Job Seekers Allowance. To hear some politicians go on about it, you would think these JSA claimants were living a life of luxury, whereas the reality is that JSA is under £70 a week – less than the weekly amount an MP can claim for his/her “food allowance”. The MP is already getting a salary of at least £65,000 plus the various “expenses”.

    When a JSA claimant finds a job it might be that he/she is on a short term contract – three to six months being a long run. In comparison, provided he/she doesn’t overdo it, they are guaranteed a job for 4/5 years.

    An MP can get themselves elected to a “committee” even though they may not have any expertise in the field where they are supposed to be overseeing. Not that it matters, because trhey will go away on a “fact finding” visit, usually to somewhere pleasant with good accomodation all found.

    The ordinary man or woman, if he got drunk at his place of work and sloshed some of his colleagues would get instant dismissal – recenbtly an MP who misbehaved himself and ended up in court on a criminal charge, “sacked” himself – but has given himself 3 years notice. Even when they have to resign in disgrace they get very generous amounts of compensation in severance pay.

    And I make the point again (at the risk of upsetting at least two of the LL regulars) if the ordinary man/woman made a false or erroneous claim on their DWP benefit form they could – and usually are – prosecuted and a custodial sentence can be applied. In 2009 we discovered that a great number of MPs from all parties fiddled their expenses. 4 were prosecuted and got minimal custodial sentences, one has evaded prosecution by threatening to harm herself if action is taken against her, and one or two have even been promoted (David Laws comes to mind).

    And despite the dishonesty, MPs feel they can lecture the ordinary public on honesty and morality, and pretend to be an expert on matters they know little or nothing about. And of course, regardless of party, if you fawn to your leadership and vote against your conscience, it is considered a good career move.

    Is there any wonder they are held in such low regard?  Everybody is equal, but MPs are more equal than others.

    One of your questions above Gloria was “What do you think when I say the word politician?”

    You provided the answer I would give – Hazel Blears, an irritating, self-regarding know it all who was a bit too generous to herself.

    • “MPs feel they can lecture the ordinary public on honesty and morality”

      On the subject of morality, I nearly fell off my chair on reading that our MP for Hillsborough, ex-Home Secretary David Blunkett, recently signed a contract worth £49,500 with Murdoch’s News International, to advise on “social responsibility”.


      • AlanGiles

         That man disgusts me: when the man from Oxford (Mr Rowley?) wrote the other day about the “hypocrisy” of the Greens, I was thinking about Blunkett: the man who boasted about making another man’s wife pregnant, even published his diaries and had them serialised in the Daily Mail, giving the sordid detials, and yet – at the same time – was a Methodist lay-preacher!.

        (Unless of course “lay preaching” has another meaning these days…)

      • AlanGiles

         That man disgusts me: when the man from Oxford (Mr Rowley?) wrote the other day about the “hypocrisy” of the Greens, I was thinking about Blunkett: the man who boasted about making another man’s wife pregnant, even published his diaries and had them serialised in the Daily Mail, giving the sordid detials, and yet – at the same time – was a Methodist lay-preacher!.

        (Unless of course “lay preaching” has another meaning these days…)

      • AlanGiles

         That man disgusts me: when the man from Oxford (Mr Rowley?) wrote the other day about the “hypocrisy” of the Greens, I was thinking about Blunkett: the man who boasted about making another man’s wife pregnant, even published his diaries and had them serialised in the Daily Mail, giving the sordid detials, and yet – at the same time – was a Methodist lay-preacher!.

        (Unless of course “lay preaching” has another meaning these days…)

      • MonkeyBot5000

        Didn’t he privatise the government’s forensic labs and hold a position with a company that specialised in DNA analysis?

  • MonkeyBot5000

    The clearest proof that politicians are out of touch with the lives of ordinary people is that they have to ask why people hate politicians.

  • jaime taurosangastre candelas

    Why is the MP for Ashfield “spending time with people in a bingo hall in Nottinghamshire, a golf club in Bradford, a warehouse in Derby, a tenants and residents association in London and I’ll be meeting with mums in a part of Manchester where voter turnout is frighteningly low”, having yesterday been meeting with people in Billericay in Essex?  

    Surely it is the people of Ashfield you should be spending asking this question, particularly when you have a majority of only 192 and Ashfield the lowest Labour vote since 1955?  Or is the “improve the national public image of Gloria del Piero” campaign more important?

    There is also the question of cost of travel – I hope that the taxpayer is not paying for this little vanity project, and if we are, that any fees for newspaper articles or television appearances detailing your findings initially reimburse the public cost of the travel.

    • Brumanuensis

      Aside from the point that Ashfield is in Nottinghamshire…

      I’m all in favour of MPs paying attention to the needs of their constituents, but this is just needlessly parochial. Political disenchantment isn’t a local phenomenon; it’s a national one. Besides, Gloria de Piero is a shadow minister, not just a back-bencher, meaning it’s inevitable that she will spend more time travelling around the country than a regular backbench MP. I really don’t see how sniping about a perfectly well-intentioned set of visits is fair, under the circumstances. And if you object to paying for the cost of politics, then I’m afraid that even if we eliminate dodgy expenses claims, democracy isn’t cheap.

      Of course, if the residents of Ashfield are unhappy, they can address their concerns to de Piero at one of her two constituency surgeries this Friday.

      • jaime taurosangastre candelas

        The questions she poses are mostly completely fatuous, and poorly spelt, no doubt to try to establish some street credibility.  If I found myself answering her little survey, I’d stop at question 3.  I expect a politician to be intelligent enough to know how to spell, and not childish enough to pretend to have the linguistic capacity of a 4 year old.  

        The questions themselves are mostly far better phrased, and more to the point in the survey she links to.  Her proposed method has no academic rigour to it, and if she was really interested in the answers, there are a number of academic reports she can get her researcher to read, rather than waste her time and our money on travelling around the country.  Her shadow cabinet position is nothing at all to do with the survey, so that is no excuse.

        What Gloria de Piero should perhaps ask is why she comes across in this article as:

        …firstly, yet another self-obsessed politician?  The answer to her question is staring at her in the mirror and I do not mean that as a personal comment on her:  it is because politicians by nature are mostly completely aloof from those they represent.

        …secondly, trying to get herself noticed on a national stage, with taxpayer funded travel?

        Those expenses reports and details of any media payments for appearances and articles are easy enough to check online.

        • Brumanuensis

          Well that’s your opinion, it may not be how other people see it. And besides, the written word is far harder to interpret than speech.

          I think the ‘u’ is more a typo than an attempt to be street, or it may be an attempt to shorten the sentences in question. Either way, this is detracting from the main point. The fact that opinion polls exist doesn’t stop people from going door-to-door during campaigns. The reason being that by asking people in person why they hold a view, you are far more likely to get a more nuanced idea of their beliefs, than just a yes-or-no set of responses. Of course, this is in addition to the fact that the response you get often depends on how you ask the question.

          • jaime taurosangastre candelas

            Well, there are four typos, and if they are typos – which I do not believe them to be – then they betray a shocking lack of attention to detail, which is also normal for a great many politicians.

            My belief is that is a total nonsense, a vanity project, dedicated to her personal cause of making herself stand out for her personal career advancement, and in that itself answers her own question.

          • AlanGiles

            Honestly, Jaime. If we were all disregarded because of typographical* errors very few of us would be on LL or anywhere else.

            I am as guilty as the next man – trying to type on a netbook with a keyboard like mine isn’t easy (or it isn’t easy for me). It’s a pity we can’t write our answers on parchment with a fountain pen – then they would be prisitine. Perhaps one day a computer will allow us to do that?

            Be honest – I bet you have made an occassional typo in one of your responses, but most of us are generous and understanding when that happens. “let ye among you who have not sinned cast the first stone”…..and all that jazz. 😉

            *Edited by me because I transposed two letters in “typographical” – see what I mean?

          • kb32904

            ‘an occassional typo’

            should read ‘an occasional typo’

            Sorry, couldn’t help it 😉

            Has anyone even considered however, that just maybe she didn’t personally type it ?

            I’m happy for our MPs to ask these questions because that’s where we begin to see what people believe needs changing.

            Bet Dave & Nick wouldn’t let their ministers do this – they’d be bricking it in fear of the answers they would get !

          • Quite right Brum – fussing over spelling detracts from the main point. The meaning is unambiguously clear and language is all about meaning.

        •  A couple of typos are “shocking lack of attention to detail”. Oh for goodness sake, stop being so pedantic and darn right nasty!

    • “a majority of only 192 ”

      Surely this must in a large part be consequent to the previous incumbent, the awful Hoon – the New Labour monster who claimed Iraqi mothers would thank him for using cluster bombs. And caused one of the U.K.s most distinguished poets, Tony Harrison, in response, to write the Baghdad Lullaby: 

      Ssshhh! Ssshhhh! though now shrapnel makes you shriek

      and deformities in future may brand you as a freak,

      you’ll see, one day, disablement ‘s a blessing and a boon

      sent in baby-seeking bomblets by benefactor Hoon.

  • Up here in Scotland people want constitutional change to enliven politics and democracy but Scottish Labour are in lock down mode – having teamed up with the Coalition to limit the democratic will of the Scottish people. We need politics and decision-making at a more local level and with wider participation. In principle lots of politicians know and agree with this direction of travel but the reality is they would lose jobs and power if we started to get serious about listening to voters and in response changing the make-up and culture of the decision-making community. So there’s a lot of self-interest which keeps things as they are. Did anybody at jazzercise say “I could do your job just as well for half the money ?”   Bet some of them could.  If we’re being really serious about tackling this issue then cut MPs salaries and redirect the money to people’s forums made up of citizens brought together to feed into policy process. These kind of reforms harnessed to ICT offer possibilities for new forms of democracy in the digital age. We don’t need to keep doing the same old same old but is anybody listening ? 

  • How is it difficult for a politician to understand how they may be ‘out of touch’ with people? The evidence is out there in plain sight if you should look.

    The poor being made more poor by policies of politicians – the same reason we see politicians becoming much more wealthy. ‘Let them eat cake’ comes to mind for many people on the lowest, not so lowest, and highest rungs of our society. Politicians are on a different planet, not simply out of touch.

    What most in society want is:

    An affordable home. Not to be gouged at every opportunity ie Gas, Petrol, Electricity, Council Tax etc. To have a living wage. Be able to afford simple luxuries like an annual holiday and to be able to save a little and get to the pub/pictures/out for a meal once a week.

    Politicians, today, concentrate on what business wants and not the individuals in society. You are now blinded that what business wants is the be all and end all. You are detested because you have a salary of £60+k per year and say that the poor, working poor must make sacrifices – all while living in your second or third home. I could go on and on and on, but I think that you have the picture by now.

    We, the public, think that politicians are parasites of which we wish we could have them removed.

  • It’s not the cost of politics per se its the issue of best value. 
    Then the assumptive tone of your last sentence speaks volumes about your limited perception of democracy. Thankfully, the suffragettes, trade unionists and activists of yore who fought for democratic reform thought to go beyond ‘surgery’ visits.     

  • Brumanuensis

    Was that meant to be directed at me?

    • franwhi

      Eeeee kkk  . It was indeed. Well spotted Brum.

  •  Do they want constitutional change? Its not very high on the list of priorities of the people I speak to – who have voted for all parties and none.

  • Are
    these findings measured against a golden age when huge majorities
    trusted politicians, thought they were doing a good job and believed
    they were honest and hard working?

    one should go into politics to be loved in ephemeral opinion polls
    and as Churchill said: “Democracy is the worst form of
    government except for all those others that have been tried”

    its interesting how often I’ve heard something along the lines of
    “politicians are all corrupt” but “I’ve met my MP who is a
    local person and is OK.”

  • robertcp

    People have had a low opinion of politicians as long as I have been around and Clegg’s apology for telling a pack of lies will not help.  However, I have heard that when people are asked about their local MP they tend to be positive.  They seem to think that the decent woman, in Gloria’s case, is not like the other awful politicians.


    • That’s just it. If Parliament’s overall approval rating was an aggregate of polls asking each constituency about its own MP, it would paint a far rosier picture.

      • robertcp

        It is also worth noting that the Yes to AV campaign followed an anti-politician line and it was a disaster.  I voted for AV but some of the Yes campaign made me cringe.

  • Why do the public see politicians as a different species from humankind? Partly because they cannot somehow envision them holding a buggy in one hand, another child on the other and three shopping baskets whilst trying to board a bus. Or cleaning up after a child has been sick. Or trying to fill in a 32-page housing benefit application form, and checking all the required supporting documents are there so it gets processed first time without n endless exchange of further supporting vidence requests. How o love that? The trouble is that if you as an MP or councillor pose with your family it looks fake and insincere; but if the photo is natural, with jam on one child’s face and sick on another’s, you look a flop as a parent and not to be trusted with bigger things. Labour MPs could try, like Jeremy Corbyn and Dennis Skinner do, to brek te orthodoxy of the two-piece dark suit that pervades the House of Commons.

  • Daniel Speight

    Wherever I go and whoever I talk to I’ll be asking the simple question –
    why do people hate me? Not me personally, but me the politician.

    First let’s get specific. Although I am as bad as everyone else and talk about our ‘political class’, which I judge to be a fairly recent phenomenon, what really concerns me is what Labour Party part of this grouping does and says. In the main I worry about the PLP composition, which you yourself point out is in a bad way. I expect very little from Tory MPs and over the years they have rarely disappointed me.

    Having narrowed down my personal concern I now face your survey not knowing if, like most MPs who post on LabourList, you will ever come back to answer or even read what is said here.

    I know you say not me personally,  but from where I sit many miles away you ‘personally’ are a sign of one of the problems we have in choosing PLP candidates. I know you will say you went through the proper democratic CLP process, but candidates like yourself and Tristan Hunt do seem to have played on your celebrity status and friendship with the previous New Labour leadership. You and Tristan I’m sure will claim it’s all perfectly innocent, but as I say from a distance it smells rather fishy.

    So onto the broader question of Labour MPs in general. The advent of New Labour seems to have given us a PLP of careerists, (of which admittedly because of the celebrity status you don’t quite fit), who show very little sign of having core beliefs to fight for. History buffs like myself would point out this difference between yourselves and what came before. Ex-prime minister Gordon Brown produced a well-written biography of James Maxton when he, Brown, was a far younger man. It should be required reading for anyone who is a Labour MP, if only to read about the deprivations the Clydeside MPs were prepared to accept in order to represent their constituents and the working class in parliament.

    How do you think we feel when we hear that MPs expenses are back to their pre-scandal levels and that family members are still being paid large sums as MPs staff? And how do you think we feel when you use Blears as a ‘good’ example when the picture stuck in everyone’s memory is of her waving that cheque in the air?

    As to yourself ‘personally’, only you can decide which sort of Labour MP you will become. At the moment my impression is you are the New Labour equivalent of Louise Mensch which really isn’t such a nice impression to have.

  • JoeDM

     What do you think when I say the word politician?   –  Selfserving ego-trippers.
    What kind of people become politicians?   –  People with an egocentric personality problem with too much time to spare and want to boss other peoples lives.
    Can u paint a picture of one – appearance, accent, age?   –  Loud, reasonably well educated with a big chip on their shoulder.
    What do politicians do?   – Make life worse for the majority of the population.
    Have you ever met a politician?   –  Yes.  Have been a member of all the main political parties down the years.  Met a number of Ministers, MPs, local councillors.  Mostly underwhelmed by their abilities.  Met Keith Joseph when I was a student when he came to speak at my Uni.  Did not agree with him at the time, but he was impressively quick and on the ball and willing to stand up to all the abuse that was thrown at him.
    What qualities do u need to be a politician?   –   Mostly slime and false charm.  “…that glib and oily art”
    How do you become a politician?   –  Join a local party.   Any will do, they are all pretty much the same.
    Would you become a politician?   –   Did concider it long ago, but  far too busy doing my day job,  for all those local council meetings.  Have a family to feed and house.
    Do u think politicians care about people like you?   –  No. 
    Who do politicians work for?  –  Who ever they think will vote for them.
    What would need to happen to make politics relevant to you?   –   Politics has always been relevant to me.

    • AlanGiles

       I actually agree with most of what you have written here, Joe (I never minded paying tax  and the more I earned the more I expected to pay).

      I like the “glib and oily art” quote because it is so true for politicians of all parties these days (who said it ?)

      • JoeDM

        “glib and oily art” is from King Lear.   Did it for A Level  many, many years ago,  but that quote  stuck like glue.

        • AlanGiles

          Thanks, Joe. I never knew that one. As Oscar Wilde said “i wish I had said that!”

  • Spend less time in committee rooms and more time on the doorstep.

  • ColinAdkins

    Because many feel free to provide ‘moral’ lectures to the general public on their behaviour when they are not fit to do so.  Because they talk of hard work being rewarded when Cameron, Clegg, Johnson and much of the Oxbridge cohort of MPs walk into ‘top’ jobs courtesy of the old univeristy scarf and because of ‘connections’. Because they seek to reform so called ‘gold plated’ public sector pensions whilst avoiding reform of their own platinum plated ones. Because they lie and obsfurcate.

    Gloria I guess if we exmained your cv your life has been a breeze in comparison with the vast majority of people. Good luck to you but do not be surprised that people do not share your own joy.

  • Daniel Speight

    No sign of Gloria. Well we didn’t really expect her to come back did we?

    • AlanGiles

       No – here today, gone today. I think this is another reason politicians are disliked – their condescention – they come on here to tell us we “hate” politicians (I  am sure very few people hate them – just despise them and find them obnoxious – as I said to our politician manque’ last week hate is such a theatrical word). Mike Rowley informed us the other day the Greens were “hypocritical” but when invited to come back and reply about some examples of Labour hypocrisy, he failed to do so.

      It is this overweening sense some (most?) politicians have that they are authority figures – they know more about the working mans world than the working men (and women) know themselves. Even if they have never worked in industry, they know all there is to know (some people who haven’t even started work think they can lecture union members), they spek and we listen – and if we dare reply or challenge them, they chose to ignore us. It is the written equivalent of the ministerial car insulating the writer/passenger so that he doesn’t come face to face with their “subjects”.

    • Brumanuensis

      We’re not really the people being surveyed though.

      • Daniel Speight

        I guess not. It does make it a bit pointless her posting on LL though.

  • Brumanuensis

    In reply, ‘best value’ is a very hard term to define. I don’t see what Gloria de Piero is doing that fails a ‘best value’ test. 
    And whilst ‘surgery visits’ are not as glamorous or on the same level as the work of the groups you mention, they are still a useful complement to democratic engagement.

  • tony

    I don’t hate the politicians for making changes per-say,  but I do hate the way the organisations who work on behalf of the government act. 

    Reference to people actually hating you, I have just read an article which explains one of many reasons politicians could be disliked.


  • Superb! Generally I never read whole articles but the way you wrote this information is simply amazing and this kept my interest in reading and I enjoyed it.


    your party let the working class down by allowing mass immigration from eu, give us a in or out vote on europe

  • uglyfatbloke

    Monkeybot has hit the nail on the head I’m afraid. They mostly are totally out of touch and there is a strong tendency for them to think they are entitled to rule – that’s why they are mostly opposed to democratic reform. There is a kind of institutionalised arrogance about it. Look how smug Jack McConnell was about developing the electoral system for Holyrood which was specifically designed to prevent the gnats from becoming the largest party by protecting Labour’s FPTP advantage in central Scotland and the Glib-Dumbs interests in the northeast…..How ‘s that going Jack?

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