Croydon’s politicians are rude, incompetent, corrupt and heartless – just like you

By - Thursday 31st March, 2016

Jonny Rose points an accusing finger at an overlooked reason for unsatisfactory government – an unsatisfactory electorate

“Scum, subhuman scum”: the author finds himself trapped with some Croydon Conservatives.
Photo by Ayo Oduniyi, used with permission.

It was the philosopher Joseph de Maistre who coined the phrase, “every nation gets the government that it deserves”. I think that he was onto something.

“Rude”, “incompetent”, “corrupt”, “heartless”. We charge Croydon’s democratically-elected officials with all sorts of pronounced character deficits.

Mario Creatura has suggested that we need to see reform in council meetings. Robert Ward has bemoaned the increasing lack of political transparency. More recently, Sean Creighton has spoken sensationally of a “corrupt Croydon”. It all amounts to the same contention: something is very wrong with our politicians, something must be done about it, there are better people out there.

Alas, such a view is doomed to failure.

Politicians are bad people, just like you

Thinking of yourself as a good person is one of the basic luxuries of modern life.

If someone has the chutzpah to ask you what makes you “good”, you can tell them about how you sometimes give to charity, or how you would give to charity if you could, or how you rarely lie or steal, or how you have good reasons for lying or stealing, or how you never hurt anyone on purpose, or how the people you hurt are bad people. If you sometimes don’t help someone when you could have, or decide to spend £50 on drinks in a single night rather than donating it to a worthy cause, well, you deserve it – after all, you’re a good person.

Except that you’re not.

We know this to be true: despite our outward appearance of respectability, if someone were to shine a light on our thoughts or to watch what we get up to when no-one is around, any illusion of our inherent “goodness” would quickly dissipate. Even our outward displays of moral rectitude are – if we’re honest – surprisingly few and far between, and inconsequential.

Whilst we may not watch football during work, I bet that you’re guilty of taking longer lunch-breaks or clocking off earlier if you can get away with it.

Sure, we might not claim £85,000 in second home expenses, but how often do you find yourself pocketing office stationery or billing a client for an hour’s work that you spent watching Doctors?

Similarly, it is not particularly becoming to see members of parliament lambast one another as “clueless buffoons”, but I have no doubt you use stronger language (even if it’s just in your head) to describe friends, family, and colleagues, who get on your wrong side.

We get the politicians that we deserve

Many of us believe ourselves to be upright and consistent. We convince ourselves that we would always do the right thing if we were in the position of our elected representatives. We bemoan how easily our current crop of politicians flip-flop between policy decisions. Yet – in the cold light of day – we know that we live in a constant state of careful compromise: we are not consistent paragons of virtue, instead we’re pragmatists bending with whatever is the prevailing moral orthodoxy of the day or will make us be embraced by society at large.

People dread being exiled and condemned. Moral life is not built on the continuum of right and wrong; it’s built on the continuum of inclusion and exclusion.

This is why some of the Croydon’s most vocal political critics are anonymous: if we knew who they were, we would see more clearly the disparity between their pious critiques and their actions in reality.

Pick your political sin: hubris, dishonesty, enmity, indolence, wrath. It’s all there to see in each and every one of us. And, sadly, that won’t change if Croydon were to suddenly adopt proportional representation.

Perhaps our politicians really are rude, incompetent, corrupt and heartless. But, take a moment to look and you’ll see that, really, you’re not much better yourself. We get the politicians that we deserve.

Jonny Rose

Jonny Rose

Jonny Rose is a committed Christian who has lived in the Croydon area for nearly twenty years. He is an active participant in his local community, serving at Grace Vineyard Church and organising Purley Breakfast Club, and was ranked "Croydon's 37th most powerful person" by the Croydon Advertiser (much to his amusement). He owns a lead generation company. He is the Head of Content at marketing technology company Idio, the founder of the Croydon Tech City movement, a LinkedIn coach, and creator of Croydon's first fashion label, Croydon Vs The World. Working on Instagram training and a Linkedin lead generation service. Views are his own, but it would be best for all concerned if you shared them. Please send your fanmail to: jonnyrose1 (at) gmail (dot) com

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  • Robert Ward

    Go Jonny.

    And well done for correctly attributing the quote to Joseph de Maistre (who I’d not heard of) rather than incorrectly, as I did, to deTocqueville.

    • Jonny Rose

      All credit to the incredibly cerebral Citizen editorial team who *corrected* my submission (I had initially punted for De Tocqueville, too)!

  • Anne Giles

    I think you are being rather harsh, Jonny. The list of bad traits you have described is not something I have recognised in any of the politicians I am in touch with, or in myself, for that matter. Spot on, though, about those who write anonymously.

    • Al Reynolds

      I can’t work out whether this comment is intended to be ironic…

      • Anne Giles

        No, it’s not. However, you are entitled to your opinions and I to mine. I am friendly with some of the MPs and Councillors and they are always polite and helpful to myself and others.

        • Al Reynolds

          The only reason I posted my remark was that my own response to the article was very different to yours. I see a lot of truth in the suggestion that people (myself included) might present ourselves as good on the outside but that might not be a true representation of how we really are “behind the scenes”. I was challenged by the article, but your response seemed to be the opposite, asserting that this isn’t true of you or the politicians you come across. I hope you didn’t take this as a personal comment about you – I don’t know you (or any Croydon politicians) and I wasn’t intending to offend you or anyone else.

          • Anne Giles

            What a nice man you are! Thanks for your explanatory comment. It is true that some politicians are sometimes nasty, but only to politicians from the opposition party. If I were to go to Council meetings, then I would probably see that. There are some nasty people out there who are not politicians and they are very nasty to me, but I keep away!

    • Zulkifli Nazim

      A very loyal politician or the wife, daughter or sister of a politician

      • Anne Giles

        You are wrong. Anyway, this publication closed down some time ago.

  • Shona Okeke

    Really interesting article. I agree, behind closed doors we have to admit – we have the capacity to be all those things. However I guess there is an expectation that politicians can be and should be better than us. They are in a position of power which we have entrusted them. So there’s an expectation that they should be behaving in the correct way. Of course they are human as well with the potential to fail, but they should be advocating for us as residents; able to make those decisions for us when we cannot

    • Anne Giles

      And they work a lot harder than we do.