| 9.9°C Dublin

Trust in politicians sinks to an all-time low

THE reputation of politicians in Britain has sunk to its lowest level ever. The latest survey by an influential Commons committee shows that a mere 26pc of voters trust MPs to tell the truth.

One of the most sceptical of those voters is the actor Hugh Grant, who played a key role during the summer in exposing the use of telephone hacking by the media.

Grant turned up at the Liberal Democrat conference in Birmingham yesterday to promote the 'Hacked Off' campaign which is trying to ensure that proper action is taken to preserve personal privacy in the future.

He is worried that the political impetus to deal with the problem is now ebbing away and he was aghast at the news that the police have switched tactics and are using the Official Secrets Act to try to get information from the media about phone-hack whistleblowers. Grant has emerged as such a fluent spokesman for the victims of hacking that, having played the part of a prime minister in the hit comedy, 'Love Actually', there has been speculation that he might be tempted to try the role of politician for real.

Yesterday he dismissed out of hand the notion of doing a Ronald Reagan. Instead, he is planning to go to both the Labour and Conservative Party conferences to keep up the pressure for effective action against phone hacking.

You do not have to hack any phones to know the kind of trouble that Barack Obama got into when he was a young man. 'Junkie. Pothead. That's where I'd been headed,' he wrote in his autobiography as he explained the tensions which led to him abusing marijuana and cocaine.

While numerous Westminster politicians have admitted taking marijuana in recent years, they are much more reluctant to let it be known that they ever used cocaine.

One of the most reluctant of all is the chancellor, George Osborne, who was shown on the front page of a tabloid newspaper six years ago, sitting next to an escort girl and opposite a little pile of white powder which looked very like cocaine.

The newspaper was the 'News of the World', which no longer exists, and the girl was Natalie Rowe, who turned out to be a friend of Osborne and a specialist in bondage and other sex domination fetishes.

Osborne strongly denied at the time that he had taken the drug, but Rowe turned up on Australian television and British radio broadcasts last week to repeat her allegations about him: 'The point I'm trying to make is this -- he's a chancellor and he should come out and tell the truth. At the end of the day, if you want to make laws and rules about drug-taking, you can't be a hypocrite and he is,' she said.

The unfortunate Osborne has more to worry about than embarrassing liaisons from years ago. His constituency in Cheshire is set to be abolished under far-reaching changes to the structure of parliament. If the proposals are approved by the Commons in two years' time, he will have to find a new political base to pursue his career.

When the prime minister, David Cameron, announced that the government was going to save about €14m a year by cutting the number of MPs from 650 to 600, pretty well every 'ordinary' voter thought it was a great idea.

MOST Conservative MPs were also enthusiastic because the current constituency boundaries mean that many Conservative votes are simply 'wasted'. Tony Blair got a decent majority in the Commons in 2005 with just 35.2pc of all the votes that were cast. Last year, David Cameron got 36pc of the votes, but his party fell 20 seats short of gaining power outright.

The reality of the proposed boundary changes, however, has turned out to be traumatic for many of Cameron's colleagues. Not only would Osborne's constituency disappear, but other big party beasts, including the former chancellor, Ken Clarke, are also under threat.

As a result, the bookmakers, Paddy Power, will give you odds of only 6/4 against the new boundaries being rejected when the time comes for MPs to decide on them.

In contrast, a new law to enforce fixed-term parliaments of five years is now set to go through. That means that the next general election will almost certainly be at the beginning of May 2015.

Some senior Liberal Democrats are hoping that by then, the party leader and deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, will have announced that he is abandoning Westminster and going off to a top job in Europe.

Clegg disappointed them yesterday by proclaiming that he intends to stay on 'well beyond' the current parliament and he denied recent suggestions that his wife, who is Spanish and a highly successful lawyer, wants him to get out of UK politics.

Irish Independent