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Milton Keynes Business Leaders Partnership Quarterly Dinner

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Dr Philip Smith MBE and Dominic Grieve QC MP
Left: Dr Philip Smith MBE, Chair of MKBLP with The Right Honourable Dominic Grieve QC MP

As we navigate through the political ‘mood music’ of Brexit, will the integrity of MP’s be restored, and will they once again be a beacon of trust to the British public?

This hard hitting subject was the backdrop to the recent MK Business Leaders Partnership (MKBLP) Quarterly Dinner, as Dr Philip Smith MBE, Chair of MKBLP, questioned why the country’s perception of MP’s today is only just above that of a second hand car sales man.

Is it the constant stream of televised debates and media coverage, coupled with the constant, and often reckless use, of social media? One only has to think of the aptly dubbed ‘Twitter President’ to realise the implications of this media platform. But, are our MP’s misunderstood?

‘MP Trust and Integrity – Can we respect them?’ A tough subject for any MP to tackle, but The Right Honourable Dominic Grieve QC MP was certainly up for the challenge. Throughout his hour long address, to a room full of Milton Keynes Business Leaders, Mr Grieve lived up to Dr Smith’s introduction: “I heard Dominic on the radio, he was articulate, intelligent, and spoke a lot of sense…..we needed him to come and talk to us.”

A British Conservative politician, barrister, Queen’s Counsel and a Member of the Privy Council, Dominic Grieve MP was elected to the House of Commons for the Buckinghamshire seat of Beaconsfield in 1997, and has subsequently held the position of Shadow Home Secretary and Shadow Justice Secretary, along with Attorney General for England and Wales.

Mr Grieve admitted that the topic of MP integrity was a tough subject, and one which, in another constituency, he may have been hesitant to discuss, however, in Milton Keynes, with Mark Lancaster and Iain Stewart, who he considered to be outstanding MP’s and colleagues, it wasn’t a difficult decision to make.

While his political career spans two decades, Mr Grieve’s history is entrenched within Parliament, as he pointed out: “I don’t see politics through the rose tinted spectacles that many people, reflecting on the past, do today.” His father represented his constituency from the early 60’s, while closely following the career of his predecessor from 1945.

With his clear understanding of past politics, in the context of Parliament today, Mr Grieve, commented that the reason why people enter politics has not changed over the years: “The vast majority of MP’s that come in to Parliament today want to be of public service.” 

Historically, MP’s were left to get on with the business of talking to their party and debating in the Chambers of Westminster. “Remember, the word Parliament comes from the French verb parler, which means to speak.” Mr Grieve pointed out. Today, however, The House of Commons is no longer the place of focus as MP’s have a myriad of communication platforms to choose from in which to reach their public, and also express their views. However, as Mr Grieve commented, “communication can also be used as a tool of manipulation, and the possibilities of this today are unprecedented.”

Unlike the era of his father’s predecessor when cartoons on the pages of the institutional Punch magazine illustrated the political landscape and swayed voters, the channels of communication today are endless, and constant.

The orchestration of ‘mood music’, or the presentation of how information is communicated to the public by Government, is today down to a fine art, and engineered by media savvy people and ‘spin doctors’ which were brought in with the Blair Government. According to Mr Grieve, however, this can diminish complex issues to mere soundbites. “It reduces public confidence because it limits the opportunity to have honest discourse. The manufactured ‘mood music’ can create a counter pendulum swing too. Look at the Government expenses scandal in 2009. Through the press, the image left of this episode was a Parliament over-run with misbehaving MP’s sponging from the tax payer, when in fact the vast majority did not abuse their position. ”  

This lead to the subject of Brexit, which, as Mr Grieve pointed out, inevitably always comes up. The general mood music orchestrated in the run up to the referendum largely focused on the advantages and disadvantages of the EU as an institution which we, as a country, had no control over. However, this background noise drowned out the real dialogue. “The result has been paralysis for both parties, but this may, in a funny way, raise our standards. It will require a lot of courage, but honesty is the best possibility.”

Mr Grieve concluded that, ultimately, the people who attended the dinner that evening were there for the common good, who believe that Milton Keynes will be a better place if it can prosper economically, provide jobs, good education, quality of life and optimism. And, aside from a few rogues, MP’s are trying to do exactly the same in Westminster.

The dinner, which was held at The Holiday Inn, Central Milton Keynes on 7th June, was concluded with questions, and a vote of thanks to the speaker, Dominic Grieve MP, by Julia Upton, MBE, a Board Director of the Business Leaders Partnership.

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