Lost trust

© MinDefensa

ON March 20, 2003, the UK became part of something that would change the public’s view of politics forever; the invasion of Iraq.

One of the most contentious and debated issues of our time, the decision on whether to invade Iraq following George W. Bush’s ‘war on terror,’ after 9/11- despite no connection between the terror plot and Iraq- saw searing Parliamentary debate and thousands take to the streets in protest.

Wherever you sat on the issue at the time, the subsequent discovery that Iraq in fact had no weapons of mass destruction- the main draw for the UK getting involved in the conflict- and a public inquiry into the invasion have had a lasting impact on trust in politics.

With pickets emblazoned with “B-liar” (quite an unfortunate surname in hindsight), protestors confronted former prime minister Tony Blair daily as he made his way from the Iraq Inquiry. He is still repeatedly asked about whether he lied about the government’s reasons for entering the war even 20 years on.

Mistrust is one of those emotions that isn’t contained however, and the public’s lack of trust in the Labour government eventually spread to judgement of many of the politicians around at the time.

The ‘us and them’ stage was already set when politics overall saw another blow in the form of the expenses scandal in 2009. With all parties being caught up in the fallout, the effect on public trust was almost terminal.

What is the answer then?

As with most things, transparency can only help.

The expenses process has at least been cleaned up and our public inquiry system helps to bring decisions made in the shadows into the light.

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