POLITICIANS tend not to be the most trusted people in public life. They lie, they cheat, they steal, they do all manner of awful things both before and after subsidised meals and booze and then tell us how to lead our lives.
This reputation on the whole is based on the behaviour of individual MPs, not the House of Commons, which manages to retain a certain reputation for rigour in holding the executive to account.
This summer will see not one but two extremely important government reports suppressed. Parliament is in such a mess it doesn't seem to notice or care. Is this the price we pay for identity, identikit politicians?
From the Tories it's Brexit means Brexit, from Labour it's social murder, from the SNP it's Alba aggrieved while the Lib Dems whimper in the corner like an enuretic urchin. They may deride the DUP for brazen identity politics but at least they do it properly and they got a pretty good deal for all their constituents too, be they Unionist or Nationalist.
A government report on the financing of terrorism in the UK is being hidden because it offends politicians in Saudi Arabia. This is preposterous and servile and does the UK no favours in the eyes of the international community. If anything it sends the message to the EU and others that we will roll over to compromise if it serves a few political interests.
The UK is involved quite actively in a civil war in Yemen displacing millions. We have a very active middle east military programme and face huge domestic risks from jihadi terrorists. It is ridiculous that our own people can be kept in the dark over possible links between the people who run us over and the people who buy weapons from us. With American shale oil output booming and the USA poised to become a major exporter again why are we so keen to entertain despots of such a dangerous persuasion?
How is any party supposed to formulate a foreign policy without the most basic of intelligence yet Jeremy Corbyn receives security briefings from the civil service? It is madness and appalling that so many MPs don't seem remotely bothered enough to speak out.
Here at home the high speed rail project is more of a financial train wreck than ever. The latest report is again hidden but at 100 billion pounds plus what possible advantage does it offer beyond turning the Midlands into a commuter belt for London? Is that really the best vision Westminster can come up with for the North? Slashing housing benefit rates for London and have a London Minimum Wage would do better in allowing jobs to move out of London through market pressure than having us pay ever more to shuttle the capital's workforce around.
For 2 billion pounds London City Airport was bought out. Handling 4.5 million passengers a year with over 800,000 serving Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Glasgow. Imagine if the airport was bought out and redesignated a Unionist Airport, prioritising flights to these cities as well as Cardiff, Belfast and Middlesborough? A small number of people, who really value high speed travel, would have access to the heart of London with minimal fuss.
Given how much less polluting lower speed trains are, is it possible that current rail combined with a designated airport for short haul domestic business travel would be better for the environment than HS2? Driverless cars promise to slash point to point travel times without stops for a fraction of the marginal cost of operating high speed rail.
The problem of course is that without reports being published parliament cannot debate any of the alternatives, including an upgrade to the East Coast Main line that would do Edinburgh a world of good. There is no reason scheduled flights from London City to these regional centres could not be spun out as a franchise of national rail as many regional airports are now linked by rail to their cities. Dundee airport is just by the waterfront and Hawarden airport is just crying out to serve Chester.
If this grand plan of mine didn't work then so what? There would very little capital investment required to do this compared to HS2 and the results would be felt very quickly whether positive or not. Smaller airports could be given an exemption from passenger duty for a fixed number of flights and as a franchise this could be very easily policed.
It is not transparency for its own sake that is precious but the wealth of policy ideas that can be proposed on the back of them. Central planning always fails because of a fundamental lack of primary data. When government withholds reports from parliament it is lying by omission. That this is now increasingly government policy is shameful.