'Politicians don't know how to respond to the needs of the public - because they can't,' writes Royston Smith

Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak in pictures

Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak have kicked off their general election campaigns

Royston Smith

By Royston Smith

Published: 24/05/2024

- 05:00

Royston Smith is the Conservative MP for Southampton, Itchen

No one said western liberal democracy would last forever. Just like the empires of old, if you don't adapt you die.

Across the country and the world people are questioning the point of politics.

In a world of instant gratification, in just about everything, nothing any longer seems enough.

Young people can't get on the property ladder as easily as their parents but their parents didn’t hang out in quirky coffee houses eating avocado on toast and scrolling through TikTok videos on mobile smartphones, which cost a week's mortgage.

The elderly are sitting on small fortunes amassed by the ever increasing value of their homes.

Asset rich and cash poor, they demand higher state pensions, lower taxes and government handouts, which historically weren't available to their parents and they wouldn't have expected.

Public service is not what it was. Too many are now more interested in working from home and political activism than serving government and by extension the public.

Strikes have been crippling the public sector and for what? Usually fewer hours and more money.

We live in a world where everything is a crisis and everyone is a legend. Which is the crisis, a spike in energy prices or a full-scale Russian invasion? If we see everything through Instagram and Twitter and believe everything we see on our friend's social media, when it clearly isn't true, why would we be shocked that there is a disconnect between the public and politics?

If everything is a priority, nothing is. If politics and politicians continue to infantilise the public, why would they be surprised that whenever the public face a challenge they look to the government to sort it out?

At what point is someone going to concede the Emperor is naked?

Western governments have mostly run out of other people's money but still, they make promises about the non-existent land of milk and honey.

Less is more.

We need to get the basics right. Education, housing, jobs and health. Treat everyone equally and with respect. There are no groups more, or indeed less, worthy than others. No one in government is responsible for the sins of our forebears.

Why do governments constantly feel the need to apologise? Be responsible for your own actions, don't own other people's.

Politicians no longer know how to respond to the needs of the public. Mostly because they can't.

If politicians will make commitments that they can't hope to keep, then surely it can come as no surprise when trust runs out.

Too many politicians, with one or two notable exceptions, are not grounded or have few or no political beliefs.

How can a voter realistically tell any of our political parties or politicians apart?

Reform claims to be on the right, but not when it comes to spending taxpayer's money.

The Liberal Democrats are opportunists and say one thing in Chesham and Amersham and something completely different in North Shropshire.

Labour welcomed a right-wing defector after she claims she has undergone a Damascene conversion, and is now an MP of the left.


The Conservatives fair a little better with their six Conservative families and the One Nation Caucus. Take your pick, there's little to choose between them.

So, is Western liberal democracy in decline? Probably, yes. Over half of the world's population lives under dictatorship or autocracy. Most Gulf States are monarchies of one form or another.

There is no easy fix and it will take time to reset, but if we want Western liberal democracy to survive, and not go the way of the great empires, then that reset has to start now.

The alternatives are just too unpalatable.

The question is, does anyone have the stomach for the fight and the values and beliefs it will take?

One young, dynamic politician quoted the American thinker, Thomas Sowell recently and said, “If you want to help people, tell them the truth; if you want to help yourself, tell them what they want to hear.” She has a point.

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