Matt Hancock has plunged “Icarus-like” out of the sky, says Polly Toynbee in The Guardian, but beware the “glee” and mockery that follows. Our lack of respect for politicians – they’re “down among estate agents, debt collectors and journalists” – is undermining democracy. Take this week’s by-election in Batley and Spen: the Labour candidate, Kim Leadbeater, has spent years working for “a more civilised public discourse” through the Jo Cox Foundation, set up in honour of her sister, the MP for the seat who was murdered five years ago. But the campaign has become “vicious and abusive”, with Labour activists egged and kicked in the head. George Galloway is “divisively targeting the ‘Muslim’ vote” by accusing Leadbeater of supporting “LGBT indoctrination in schools”.
It’s enough to dissuade even the hardiest of souls from entering politics. But those who stand for office, even those I strongly disagree with, are overwhelmingly “of good intent”. They’d have easier lives and earn more in other occupations. That said, we’ve always dismissed our leaders. Even on the eve of D-Day in 1944, a poll found that only a third of voters thought politicians were “motivated by doing their best for the country”. And thousands of years ago, “graffiti in ancient Greece and Rome rudely denounced democracy’s earliest practitioners”. But hopefully, as the culture wars wear us down, we might end up preferring “a measure of civility” to “bullying bluster”.
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