Many Britons feel things “don’t work” while the poorest see the system as “rigged” against them a cabinet minister has warned in a scathing assessment of the state of the nation.
Penny Mordaunt, who recently ran against Rishi Sunak for the Tory leadership, also said that many people look to figures like the consumer champion Martin Lewis rather than the state.
The future of democracy and capitalism hang “in the balance” if trust in politics is not restored, she said in a speech.
The bleak assessment by the Commons leader came as she argued for better support for MPs, and that only a small number were “wrong ‘uns”.
Addressing a conference organised by the Institute for Government think tank, she warned “many people think things don’t work any more” while some are “feeling economic shocks for the first time”.
“For those with the least the whole system can seem rigged against them,” she added.
The prime minister’s battle to restore trust would be won only “when people feel understood, when they feel the benefits in their wallets”.
“Upon that trust depends more than just happy citizens and an election victory,” she said.
“The very continuation and success of capitalism and democracy also hangs in the balance. If people stop believing these systems work for them then, like Tinker Bell’s light, it dies.”
On the behaviour of some MPs, she said “there might be a few wrong ‘uns but it’s not the majority”.
She pointed to colleagues who had suffered from poor mental health, “huge stresses” in their lives, or had been “put in a situation where they have been asked to juggle chainsaws and not had the support”.
“That’s not saying people don’t do bad things and shouldn’t be held to account but I think when you look at these things, and ask why has someone done that, quite often there’s a lot we could do to create a better environment to pre-empt some of these things,” she said.
“I also think there should be much more collective responsibility between the House, the Cabinet Office and political parties.”
She acknowledged the need for reform of how the House of Commons functions, saying the pace of change has been “very, very slow”.