Poll challenges Archbishop's idea that expenses scandal is bad for democracy

Poll challenges Archbishop's idea that expenses scandal is bad for democracy

London, UK - 23 May 2009 The results of a poll released today which was commissioned by the religion and society thinktank Ekklesia, has challenged the Archbishop of Canterbury's suggestion that democracy will be damaged by the revelations about MPs expenses.

The results of the telephone poll suggest that rather than damaging democracy, the expenses scandal has brought a new interest in politics and a willingness to back new political initiatives such as independent candidates.

The survey commissioned by Ekklesia and conducted by polling organisation ComRes, suggests that 78 per cent of the public believe independents should stand where MPs have behaved 'unethically'. 63 per cent said that they thought democracy would be enriched if more independent MPs were elected to Parliament.

This compares with just 61 per cent who voted at the last general election.

Ekklesia co-director Jonathan Bartley said: "Rather than turning people off politics, our survey suggests that the expenses scandal has brought a new revival of interest in politics.

"The poll suggests that the real problem has been an old party-dominated system which has been inaccessible. In contrast, the fall-out from the expenses scandal has clearly brought hope of a new system and new ways of political engagement that people feel they can connect with. "

Ekklesia co-director Simon Barrow added: "It is right to be concerned that an orgy of self-vindicating finger-pointing may detract from the urgent need for radical renewal of public institutions, and from the awareness that the seeds of corruption are not just in one place or in "that lot". But beyond the intense anger that many rightly feel, there is perhaps more critical awareness than the archbishop credits."

He continued: "The gap between governed and governors is the really dangerous one, because it allows both to blame the other while nothing changes. Our poll indicates that the appetite for change is now real, and should not be missed."

The ComRes poll indicates that:
* 78 per cent say independents should stand where MPs have behaved 'unethically'.
* 63 per cent believe British democracy would be strengthened if there were more independent MPs.
* 53 per cent say they would 'seriously consider' voting for an independent candidate at the next general election.

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Notes to Editors

(1) ComRes telephoned a nationally representative sample of 1010 GB adults between 20th and 21st May 2009. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Full tables at www.comres.co.uk

(2) The full embargoed results are available on request from Jonathan Bartley: office@ekklesia.co.uk , 07771 598097

(3) Ekklesia's work during the last few years has looked at how a less tribal and partisan system could encourage greater democratic participation and in particular, the role of independent Members of Parliament, including the 200 'independent' cross- benchers in the House of Lords. This work is contained in two books: The Subversive Manifesto (BRF:2005) and Faith and Politics After Christendom (Paternoster, 2006) both by Ekklesia co-director Jonathan Bartley.

(4) Ekklesia will shortly publish a discussion paper on 'Transforming Politics', which looks at the wider changes needed to re-engage democracy.