Sunday, April 08, 2012

Even politicians have a right to a private life, don't they?

The suggestion that politicians should make public their tax returns is a no-brainer, right? After all, the public have a right to know what public servants earn, don't they?

Well, yes and no. The earnings from politics of every politician are publicly available, at all levels of government. Every year, politicians agonise over, or are forced to defend, levels of salaries and allowances publicly. So, obviously that transparency should remain.

But there are those of us who believe that politicians should not have to deal with intrusion into their private lives. The widely held view that politicians have no right to a life beyond politics is, to my mind, unreasonable and contrary in nature. And the notion that a politician's financial arrangements should be public whilst exempting the rest of us is, to my mind, unacceptable.

The disclosures of the four leading contenders for the London Mayoralty regarding their personal finances have shed very little light on the potential future of city governance, and provided a wonderful distraction for those who would rather fight the politics of personality than focus on ideas and past performance.

I really don't care that a national newspaper has been foolish enough to pay Boris Johnson a vast sum to write a fairly vacuous diary. What I do care about is that he does his job. I don't even feel it necessary to agree with what he does, as an election gives Londoners an opportunity to demonstrate what they think about his performance. By entering into a debate about how much each candidate has declared on their tax return, we move away from ideas towards jealousy and manufactured outrage.

And why should politicians be singled out, anyway? If it is accepted that politicians are not entitled to privacy, shouldn't we then accept that we drive people out of public life by doing so? And does that help engender the best quality governance we can get?

No, I'm of the view that everyone is entitled to a degree of privacy, and that how they live their life, and what they do in their spare time, should be their business and not ours, so long as it is legal. And we have laws and enforcement officials to decide upon that already...

1 comment:

aaron trevena said...

I don't think the income of politicians is a private matter, it is important to know if a politician paid to do a full-time job is doing that job full time, its also important to see what financial or other influences that politician is under beyond the facts and discussions in public .. it is especially important when these people are government ministers and thus write the laws that affect others in these matters.