MPs must tackle contempt they are held in

Some leading political figures have taken the opportunity - if that is the right word - to say that, contrary to widespread public perceptions, politicians are not all rogues.

Tuesday, 21st June 2016, 8:20 am
Updated Tuesday, 21st June 2016, 10:23 am
1995 library filer of Chris Moncrieff. Photo by Peter Smith/PA

Indeed, they say, the vast majority of them, like Jo Cox, are in it to make the world a better place.

That may well be true in many cases, but the fact remains the general odium that has descended on MPs has been brought upon themselves. They have only themselves to blame for the negative view in which the general public by and large, hold them. Let us not forget the expenses scandal of a few years ago. Many MPs - I would put the number in three figures - abused public money in a manner as if they had won millions on the lottery, charging the poor British taxpayer for fripperies which he would not even dream of having.There were the applications for the infamous duck house (Sir Peter Viggers), the cleaning of his moat (Douglas Hogg) and the bulk-buying of lavatory seats (Sir Peter Luff) to quote just a tiny fraction of some of the ludicrous applications made and, in many cases, granted. A Fleet Street news editor who received expenses like that from his reporters would have had an apoplectic fit.

The death of Mrs Cox, apparently an exemplary MP, cannot and should not erase all that. But if it has served to improve the public perception of MPs, then it will be the only good thing to have emerged from this terrible tragedy.

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The Tory peer Lord Tebbit said recently that on the one occasion he met the notorious Jimmy Savile, he found him “creepy”.

I would apply precisely the same epithet to describe, with or without hindsight, the late Liberal MP, Clement Freud, who has also been unmasked as a child abuser.

He was a droll fish who seemed to regard himself as a cut above the rest of us. He was obviously desperate to get that knighthood, ringing me up, when I was compiling the list, to inquire whether he was on it. I told him that because the information was confidential until the official publication time, I could not tell him. He was raging. He had to wait another year for it!

Jo Cox is the first British female MP to have been killed. But others have met a similar fate elsewhere in the world. Indira Gandhi, the former Indian leader, was killed by one of her own bodyguards. Mrs Cox was the soul of courtesy and kindness to all those she dealt with, including journalists.