Politicians are more honest and less "sleazy" than ever before, a Midland MP has claimed.
Speaking just three weeks after David Blunkett?s resignation, Tony Wright (Lab Cannock Chase) insisted standards in public life were higher than they have ever been.
But he warned that trust in politicians had plummeted and the parties themselves were partly to blame.
They were so keen to score points they made politics as a whole look disreputable. The media was also eager to report stories about sleaze, he said.
Conservatives have called for the appointment of a new advisor on ministerial interests, to ensure members of the Government are obeying official codes of conduct.
Tory spokesman Chris Grayling linked the demand to the resignation of Mr Blunkett.
Speaking in the House of Commons, said: ?The events of the past few weeks have raised important issues about the oversight of the ministerial code.?
The Prime Minister is personally responsible for disciplining Ministers who break the code.
But he has been criticised for failing to take action after Mr Blunkett apparently broke the rules by failing to inform an official watchdog about his business activities, after he left the Home Office last year.
The affair led John Major, the former Prime Minister whose administration was dogged by numerous allegations, to describe Tony Blair?s Government as the most sleaze-ridden ever.
But speaking in the Commons, Dr Wright said: ?Minis-terial conduct was not better in the past, but a good deal worse, and both main parties have spent a lot of time on improving matters.?
He added: ?We now have an army of ethical regulators, who have usually been introduced in response to some crisis or scandal.?
There was now a range of codes, commissions and regulators, he said.
?As a result, has trust in Government and the political class increased or decreased? I am afraid that it has decreased, and that is what should concern us.?
He added: ?The newspapers love to feed the idea that the political class is sleazy and corrupt. It sells newspapers and feeds the popular assumption.
?We also feed that by always saying that the other lot are more corrupt than we are. We have all been guilty of that.
?We were guilty of it in the 1990s, although it must be said that we had rich material to work with. In any case, we exploited it for all it was worth, because of the great political dividend it provided.? Dr Wright told MPs: ?Do I think that standards have gone down? No, I do not; they have gone up quite considerably. The tragedy is that we have given people grounds to think that standards have gone down.
?Why then do we spend so much effort trying to suggest that our political opponents are corrupt and sleazy? Because we think there may be some temporary political advantage in doing so.?
He warned: ?When someone jumps up every time anything happens, however minor, saying, ?This is a scandal. This is a resigning matter?, when they go through the whole hyperbolic routine, the effect is to diminish regard for political life.?
Cabinet Office Minister Jim Murphy, speaking for the Government, said the Blunkett affair did not prove reforms were needed.
It was a ?technical breach? of the rules and not a deliberate attempt to commit a a ?criminal or fraudulent? act.