NINE times. I counted.

One morning last week, between the hours of 8.30am and noon, and across three radio stations I heard it nine times, phrased in various ways.

“Politicians are all the same – all liars.”

Nine times.

Sometimes, the presenters didn’t even challenge the comments or try to balance them out. Nine times it made me angry, and nine times it was wrong.

All politicians are not the same.

This week, we have seen the re-emergence of a photo of Sir Keir Starmer, drinking a beer in a Durham constituency office just before the Hartlepool by-election in May 2021, pictured. This photo has been brought forward as evidence that everyone’s been ignoring the rules. No-one’s been doing the right thing. He’s just as bad as Boris Johnson, practice what you preach, Sir Keir...

Sadly, this is another extraordinary case of the ‘Whataboutism’ that has become such a commonplace, insidious and weak feature of our public ethical benchmarking. Rather than just facing up squarely to the allegations about multiple parties at Downing Street during Covid-induced restricted periods, and being honest and honourable about the situation that Boris and his Conservative team are in, they think the best course of action is to point the finger at the Labour Party.

So many, too many, people, now feel that the rules were not being universally upheld, and, if various vox pops, the Question Time audience and my own recent conversations are anything to go by, are increasingly feeling that some people in power have been disdainful of their pain, indifferent to their suffering and disregarding of their sacrifices.

I have heard similar all-inclusively derogatory remarks about politicians, on a smaller scale, in a local context. A number of times we councillors have been referred to as “fat cats”, being “in it for themselves”, there have been numerous glib comments on social media about back handers, brown envelopes and being in other people’s pockets.

Well, that’s not me, and it is not my experience of most of the politicians I have met. I am no longer prepared to be tarred with a brush whose sticky pot I’ve never even been close to, never mind dipped in. If another politician does something dishonest, underhand or sneaky, that says nothing about my behaviour, attitude or character – it speaks only to theirs. But let’s not leave the point there. Read on.

I spent a significant amount of time this year working with people who want to stand for election in May. It is important that the members of my team are clear about the outstanding, unique role each of them can have in leading progress in Inverclyde; that they weigh up the considerable responsibility of moving into elected roles, and that they have a clear impression of what the expectations are of a good councillor.

During this time, I got to hear so many great people telling me what motivates them, why they care about their community, and the reasons they want to stand for council. Not one of these people are doing so to line their own pockets, or feel that they’re heading onto a comfy wee gravy train. They have been thoughtful about their offer to you, the people of Inverclyde, and they know the high standard of conduct in public life that you will expect of them each and every day they hold public office.

So, I am calling on all the politicians who aren’t engaged in corruption, or dishonest behaviours that we all get labelled with, to call it out when we see it, and make sure everyone knows that it is not good enough. Be an ally to the general public who want things to be better. Be that MP, that MSP or that councillor.