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Unhappiness with politics ‘at 15-year high’

Chamber of the House of Commons Image copyright PA Image caption Politicians are now less trusted to act in the public interest than bankers

The public’s dissatisfaction with how government is working is at a 15-year high, an influential study of political engagement suggests.

Levels of unhappiness are now greater than in the wake of the MPs’ expenses scandal, the Hansard Society found.

More than half of the 1,200 people questioned thought the UK was in decline and needed a “strong leader who is willing to break the rules”.

And more than 40% said they could support new parties with radical ideas.

The Hansard Society’s 16th Audit of Political Engagement was carried out in early December, before the extent of the current Commons deadlock over Brexit became apparent.

But it found that MPs were less trusted to handle Brexit than judges and civil servants, while banks were more trusted to act in the public interest than MPs, ministers or political parties.

The survey of 1,198 adults, carried out by Ipsos-Mori, found falling levels of confidence in the political system and the belief that the public can influence decision-making and change the country for the better.

‘Room for improvement’

The proportion of respondents who believed the system of government required either “quite a lot” or a “great deal” of improvement rose above 70% for the first time – to 72%.

This was 12 points higher than when the annual research first took place in 2004 and three points higher than in 2010 – when it hit 69% in the aftermath of the furore over MPs’ expenses claims.

Institutions and individuals both came in for their share of blame.

Nearly 40% of respondents agreed that “neither the system nor the people making the decisions” were good enough, as opposed to 15% who said the people in power were good but the “system prevents them from making the right decisions”.

On Brexit, 79% of respondents had little or no confidence in political parties’ ability to sort it out, while 75% said they were too divided to act in the national interest.

Confidence levels in civil servants and judges were higher, at 40% and 49% respectively, than for

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