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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 October 2007, 09:14 GMT 10:14 UK
Signing up to the truth
By Richard Symons
Director, The Ministry Of Truth

The idea of asking an MP to support the "Misrepresentation of the People Act", a Bill making it an offence for him/her to lie was ridiculous enough to be irresistible.
Houses of Parliament
A survey suggested the majority of people do not trust politicians

Along the way, I was amazed to discover a constitutional gap the size of an elephant being politely ignored in our front room.

We were very lucky to get the high level access we needed - Justice Secretary Jack Straw, deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman etc, nearly 50 MPs in all.

Our method was simple. We would first ask them to agree with the basic principles behind the Bill:

  • We, the people, are sovereign.

  • We grant this sovereignty to our elected representatives in Parliament.

  • Whilst representing our sovereignty, our elected representatives have fundamental obligations to be honest, transparent and accountable to us.

  • We are entitled to formal, legal, independent courses of action for a breach of these fundamental obligations.

All of them agreed (with the exception of a spirited defence for the Monarchy as sovereign from Shadow Attorney General Dominic Grieve).

Then we would ask them to confirm there was no formal, legal, independent course of action for a breach of these fundamental obligations.

They all did.

Wildest dreams

Then we would hand them a copy of the Act (you can download it from our site - www.ministry-of-truth.net ) and ask them to support it - potentially the legal redress that would re-establish public trust in politicians and fill the constitution void.

We expected to arrive at a film with the punch line - "MPs refuse to support a Bill ensuring honesty, transparency and accountability". Not very subtle, I'll admit.

What we got was much, much more - and a punch line you'd never expect in your wildest dreams. I don't want to spoil it for you.

Democracy in practice is very young and constantly evolving
One thing I really learnt along the way was the importance of not taking what we have for granted.

The Ministry of Truth is part of the Storyville's worldwide "Why, Democracy?" season and when you look at it alongside the other films from countries with emerging democracies - you really appreciate what we've got.

To turn your nose up would be churlish and I sincerely hope the film doesn't do that.

Democracy in practice is very young and constantly evolving. I do sincerely believe the next stage will be the re-negotiation of the contract between the electorate and government.

Gordon Brown's certainly recognised this with his most recent green paper - "the Governance of Britain". Whether this becomes anything more than a statement of intent is the interesting part. We shall see.

With this in mind, I also hope the film will do two things - get people to vote and elevate the issue of public trust to an appropriate level.

I really do want to live in a country where we trust the government, where we're grateful for the job they do.

A poll MSN conducted for us last week shows that 96% of 13,000 respondents don't trust politicians.

Almost all of our MPs said trust was "the bedrock, the foundation of Democracy, without it, everything else unravels" yet it's never been successfully attacked.

With a tail wind and the Ministry of Truth's punch line - there's a chance that could change.

The Ministry Of Truth is part of the BBC's Why Democracy? season and will be broadcast on BBC Two at 1900 BST on Thursday, 11 October.

SEE ALSO
Europe diary: Political lies
22 Sep 06 |  Europe
The truth game
24 Nov 06 |  Magazine

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