Public Affairs: Soap Box - Peter Bingle, chairman, Bell Pottinger Public Affairs

It is sometimes taken for granted that politicians have skins as tough as a rhino's. As the apparent suicide attempt of David Ruffley MP has shown, nothing could be further from the truth. Politicians have their fair share of normal human failings just like the rest of us.

Following this week's Budget, Liberal Democrat and Conservative politicians are coming under intense personal and political pressure. This Government is cutting spending. Thatcher never did. There is a real danger that coalition MPs will respond to this new-found unpopularity (even hatred) and pressure by retreating from the public sphere. We must all ensure they do not.

Whatever our politics, it is essential all of us who are involved in the body politic play our part in ensuring the arguments are about policy. Every interest group will try to protect itself from the cuts. It will get very nasty but the arguments must remain rational. They must not get personal or other politicians will also snap.

Being shouted at in the street is not a pleasant experience. Having your children bullied is horrible. Eventually the public mood will become even more hostile over cuts than over expenses. We are about to experience the politics of cuts for the first time. I do not want to read the obituary of an MP who could not take the pressure.

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