Thursday, April 15, 2010

MPs, the expenses scandal and stress

Dr Ashley Weinberg from the University of Salford presented a paper about stress in MPs to the British Psychological Society's Annual Conference today, and I have just spoken to him about it.

He has been looking at this subject for some years now, and his latest study compared figures he obtained between the summer of 2009 and the spring of this year with those from just after the 2005 general election. In each case the samples contained more than 30 MPs.

Although the questionnaires were completed anonymously, Dr Weinberg collected enough demographic information to be sure he was comparing like with like.

The paper found that 39 per cent of the MPs surveyed in 2009/10 reported high levels of stress, up from 22 per cent in 2005.

I asked what a high level of stress meant in this case. While it is not severe enough to lead the sufferer to seek medical help, it would mean they would be in low spirits and find it harder to make decisions or cope with their workload.

The obvious event to ask about between 2005 and the present day is the expenses scandal, and Dr Weinberg did ask about this. The answers here showed that 76 per cent of the sample felt more negative about the job of MP because of the scandal and 90 per cent felt more negative about the House of Commons.

Perhaps more importantly, 30 per cent felt the scandal had made it harder for them to do their job as an MP.

It is easy to say that no one if forced to be an MP - in fact, many people slave and scheme for years to make it to Westminster. And some level of stress is inevitable in any responsible job. But if it is affecting MPs' ability to make decisions then it should be viewed with concern.

And while there were some example of outrageous behaviour revealed - some of which are currently making their way through the courts - it is not true that all MPs are bad as each other.

If reform of the Commons can restore its esteem in the eyes of the public, it may make it easier for MPs to do their job too.

That matters. You may be a sceptic about government, but that just makes the role of MPs in righting injustice and helping those wronged by the system more important.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

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