John Mann column: Politicians need to realise the UK doesn’t just mean London

John Mann MP
John Mann MP

Every so often politicians in Westminster realise that most of the country thinks they are wildly out of touch and only see the world through the distorted view of London.

There are various reasons that this is true: Government departments are based in London and many MPs spend most of their time in the capital.

However, once in a while they feel compelled to make the right noises about the rest of the country – often when the ridiculous lack of infrastructure spending outside of London is exposed.

Those politicians then talk about ‘localism’ and ‘giving power away’.

There are instances when localism could be a significant opportunity for us – for example if it means a genuine South Yorkshire model where we have both influence and benefits.

Too often, this talk of localism is shown to be just that: all talk.

Over the past week the Government has let us down again by finalising the decision to close a whole range of courts, including Worksop.

It has done so without addressing any of the problems I pointed out to them or indeed the views of local people, which were strongly against the closure.

So ends 1,000 years of local justice, finished off by a London pen-pusher with no idea of the realities of life, transport or justice outside of the capital.

It goes to prove that when the offer of genuine power for local people arises, we must grab it.

The last time I was in a minority of one in Parliament, I was calling out MPs for trousering expenses.

I warned in 2008 that MPs were claiming huge amounts of money and that if they were not clamped down on and made to pay the money back there would be a huge public scandal.

The Westminster Club ignored me but the scandal I predicted did of course come to pass.

Some MPs quite rightly went to jail whilst others lost their seats, thrown out by voters who were sick and tired of ‘the club’ covering up for itself.

Last week, I was again in a minority of one in Parliament.

When an MP is arrested, it is made public to the House of Commons and therefore to the general public.

However, the Government pushed forward a motion to grant anonymity to MPs who are arrested on the basis of their ‘human rights’.

This new law gives MPs a protection that is not available to members of the public.

It cannot be right that if an MP is arrested, this is kept a secret under this new law.

I was the only MP to object to the change.

This is another case of MPs looking out for each other, but covering each other’s backs just means the public’s faith in politics sinks even lower.

I hope that in future more of my colleagues will have the bravery to stand up against ‘the club’.