Crisis of legitimacy: trust in politicians and journalists keeps going down

What does it say about our ‘democracy’ when those who are supposed to uphold it are some of the least trusted people in the country?

Proletarian writers

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Proletarian writers

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As one of the stranger years in living memory draws to a close, the Ipsos Mori veracity index for 2020 makes interesting reading, reflecting the public’s judgement on the whole sorry affair. Which professions have used the crisis as an opportunity to reaffirm our deeply-held suspicions? Conversely, who has emerged from this annus horribilis with the nation’s trust in them bolstered?

Despite the twists and turns of the last twelve months, there is nothing unpredictable about the results.

At the bottom of the scale is a rogues’ gallery of the usual suspects. Alongside perennial bottom feeders – the advertising executive (13 percent), the estate agent (27 percent) – politicians in general and government ministers in particular sit second and third from bottom, with only 15 percent and 16 percent respectively of the public’s trust.

This is a wholesale rejection of the way in which all mainstream parties have behaved over the past year. The list of disgraces runs ever onward – it is not limited to the myriad of Covid-related missteps and U-turns that have characterised Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak’s health and economic policies.

The appointment of obnoxious advisers with overinflated egos and scant regard for their own government’s Covid regulations; the refusal to provide free school meals to even the poorest of the nation’s children, while accepting their own pay raises without a second thought and otherwise haemorrhaging taxpayers’ cash at every opportunity; the endless equivocation over a Brexit they’ve never really had the heart for; the back-handers and sordid private lives – these are but a few of the reasons why people would sooner trust that well-known shyster the estate agent than a member of our current political class.

The media fare only slightly better, with only a quarter of the respondents indicating they would trust a journalist. This is a real problem for the ruling class, which relies heavily on the presstitute fraternity to sell its aggressive wars and rigged system to an ever more cynical public. Increasingly, workers feel that the media class is alien to them and, whether they treat ordinary folk with sneering contempt or with cynical manipulation, their hostility is plain to see.

The professions at the top of the list, on the other hand, those whom the overwhelming majority of respondents indicated they would trust, are those we rely upon to keep the wheels of society in motion.

Several of these highly-trusted professions were truly heroic during the worst of the pandemic – nurses and doctors take the top two places, with 93 and 91 percent trust respectively. Care home workers also score highly, with a trust rating of 76 percent. Just below that is the faithful delivery driver: while lockdown restrictions interfered with shopping habits across the country, these drivers helped keep our fridges and cupboards filled, and for their efforts earned the trust of 75 percent of respondents.

It is no surprise that those at the top of the list – nurses, doctors, teachers, and scientists – have been taken for granted, overstretched, underpaid, ignored, and even maligned over the course of this year, very often by those now wallowing in the ignominious bottom rankings of public trust. Key workers in essential shops, delivery services and care homes have for some time been amongst the worst-treated and worst-paid in the British workforce.

Those in government repeatedly covered their ears to their own scientific advisors’ advice until long after the coronavirus horse had bolted. They have taken the battle to teachers and their unions over the re-opening of schools. The call for a 15 percent NHS pay rise has thus far gone unheeded. Just like what passes for a journalist in 21st-century Britain, the barefaced cheek and baseless entitlement of our parasitic politicians cannot be hidden.

What is also clear from the Ipsos Mori data, however, is that this is not a recent turn of events. Whilst it has certainly been the year of the coronavirus, that novelty is a superficial one. Taking into account the data of previous surveys, trust in government ministers and politicians in general has for many years been below 25 percent, and has been significantly lower than that since the 2008 financial crisis. Trust in journalists fell to 23 percent this year from the dizzying height of 26 percent in 2019.

So this year’s crisis has not brought with it a dramatic change in public opinion. It is just one more test that those who presume to govern the nation, and those who presume to shape public opinion, have failed.

Things have been this way for some time, and are only set to get worse as the capitalist crisis deepens, bringing with it more unemployment, more poverty, more inequality and further erosion and privatisation of our remaining public services.

This is what late-stage capitalism looks like – a house of cards waiting to be toppled, a swamp waiting to be drained, a vacuum of legitimacy waiting to be filled.