Public turn on today’s anti-social media MPs

A crisis of confidence in MPs has seen a huge rise in the number of official complaints from the public.

Poor behaviour on social media and failing to respond to letters are among constituents’ biggest issues.

Daniel Greenberg, Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, said the reputation of politicians has fallen to “a level that is dangerously low for the safe and secure operation of the rule of law, in a parliamentary democracy which depends on government by consent”.

He is responsible for investigating claims that MPs have broken Parliament’s code of conduct.

This includes rules on declaring outside earnings and ensuring their behaviour does not damage the reputation of the House of Commons.

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In the 12 months up to April 2023 he received 5,672 complaints – up from 1,434 the previous year and 1,780 in the 12 months before that.

While just 14 complaints led to a formal inquiry in the most recent 12 months, in some cases the Com-missioner gave “words of advice” to the MP concerned. There were 1,229 complaints last year about the behaviour of MPs in the Commons Chamber, which the Commissioner cannot investigate because they are a matter for the Commons Speaker.

Mr Greenberg said in his annual report: “Levels of public trust and confidence in politicians are low.”

He said he was “concerned” about the number of complaints about “the language and tone that some MPs choose to use in expressing their views and opinions”, including on social media.

Mr Greenberg said: “I have seen numerous examples of MPs’ language that could reasonably be regarded as offensive or aggressive, or which contains what could be construed as personal attacks.

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“It is clearly capable of damaging trust between the public and politicians.”

In one high-profile case, the Commissioner ruled that SNP MP John Nicolson had broken the code of conduct by “liking” or “retweeting” tweets describing Conservative MP Nadine Dorries as “grotesque”, a “vacuous goon” and having been “ragdolled” by him in Parliamentary exchanges.

An independent panel overturned the ruling and stated Ms Dorries “herself has used strong language in tweeting”.

Last week Labour MP Karl Turner apologised for sharing an image which had been doctored to show Rishi Sunak with a badly pulled pint, along with a woman looking on disapprovingly.

The Commissioner also said he was worried that MPs often failed to respond to letters and emails from constituents.

However, Mr Greenberg also said: “I believe the majority of Members go about their public lives strongly committed to the maintenance of high standards.”

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