Politics should be about doing the right thing and our leaders need to remember that

6 March 2023, 10:27 | Updated: 6 March 2023, 10:38

Our leaders need to remember that politics is about doing the right thing, writes Andy Coulson
Our leaders need to remember that politics is about doing the right thing, writes Andy Coulson. Picture: Global
Andy Coulson

By Andy Coulson

In between WhatsAppgate, Sue Gray joining Labour and the small matter of Brexit getting done (again) it was a busy week in Westminster.

And yet I’ve been left wondering if any of it will have moved the dial for voters one way or the other.

Hancock’s latest half hour in the headlines will cause those who already have a fixed view about lockdown to, well, be even more fixed. Sue Who? with all due respect to my former No10 colleague, is the likely reaction from most voters to her surprising job swap. And even the Brexit deal, while an important demonstration that Rishi Sunak has some political, as well as financial smarts, I doubt will touch the sides in the Dog and Duck. While the privileges committee update on Partygate will be met with a ‘same ‘ol same ‘ol’ shrug.

And therein lies the problem for both parties. The disconnect between voters and their representatives in Westminster – even after a week like that – has never been so pronounced. Two decades in the making, it’s entrenched and the reason why Sir Kier Starmer is not yet the shoo-in many are already predicting. Because this disconnection is party neutral. Or to quote my cab driver this week: “There is no choice because they’re all the bloody same.”

So how should our Prime Minister and the man who hopes to replace him approach this challenge? They would do worse than spend some time in the company of a colleague who failed miserably as a party leader but who has gone on to do more than most to connect Westminster with the issues that matter.

Sir Iain Duncan Smith recently joined me on my podcast. Through the Centre for Social Justice, the think tank he created nearly 20 years ago IDS is shining a light this week with a report on a little known crisis that’s building fast in housing estates up and down the country.

Cuckooing is a terrible new modern slavery trend that you might have seen featured in Happy Valley. A cruel practice used by criminals to take over someone’s home, someone’s life as a base or as a cover for their own illegal activities.

It was the kind of week that would have left me in my old job, come to think of it BOTH my old jobs, excited and exhausted in equal measure.

I asked IDS why he has spent so much time and energy over the last decade focused on modern slavery - an issue that, if you listen to the psephologists, doesn’t carry too many votes.

His answer was simple but, I thought, powerful: “Politics should be about doing the right thing, first and foremost,” he said. “Because I think when you do the right thing and there’s a problem, then ultimately what happens is things balance out in the end.”

Most people who enter politics do so for the right reasons - to make a difference to the lives of people who aren’t able to change their circumstances without help. Trouble is the ones who lose sight of that altruism and get swept up by venality and ambition are the ones that get noticed. So, their failings are assumed to apply to all. That’s what sits at the root of this increasingly dangerous disconnection.

Our PM and the man who seeks to replace him need to urgently show they understand this and put in place a convincing plan to do something about it. A good first step would be to take a long, hard look at the work of IDS’s CSJ.

Andy Coulson is Founder of www.coulsonpartners.com, former No10 Director of Communications and former Editor of the News of the World.