Privacy for parliamentarians


Recently, the pseudo-celebrity MP, Lemit Opik, called for stronger privacy rules protecting MPs. No doubt many would highlight the irony of an MP with a string of celebrity partners calling for greater levels of privacy, but let's leave cheeky girls aside for now. There is a moral issue here regarding the fine line between political transparency and the right of those in public life.
Mr Opik said "For a long time I believed the cost of public life was public attention, which at times does not please the subject of the coverage, but which nevertheless goes with the territory." This is a crucial point in the debate. There needs to be a culture within politics that MP and Lords are working for us, that they are employees of the people. As such, those entering politics need to accept that parts of their life will be on public display because it could eventually impact on us.
The expenses scandal has revealed and emphasised the need for greater transparency with financial matters. Essentially, the MPs proved that they could not be trusted with our money – this intrusion into our representatives lives by the media only had positive outcomes. It gave the MPs a warning that they couldn’t continue living unchecked at our expense, whilst it gave the electorate the wake-up call that we need to play a role in seeing where our money goes.
But there is a valid case that the intrusion of the media into the lives of MPs has gone too far and is inflicting upon the rights of MPs. Granted, if MPs were left with so little privacy that it severely impacted on their lives, we would put off the best candidates from entering politics, resulting in a sub-standard system.
There needs to be a fine balance struck regarding privacy in public life. In my opinion, there can never be too much transparency when it comes to financial matters, we must know where our money is being spent. But, everybody should be entitled to a degree of privacy – I don’t need to know where an MP goes on holiday.