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May 152009
 

So we have had a week since the Daily Telegraph stretched out the entrails of the mother of Parliaments for the public to pick over, and what has happened ? Not a lot.

A few MPs have paid some money back as though they had been caught sneaking biscuits out of the jar from their mother’s kitchen. A tiny number have lost their second job.

Has anyone been fired ? Has anyone been suspended pending an investigation ? Are the allegedly corrupt MPs still able to vote in Parliament ?

The majority of MPs who previously sat idly by whilst a few were riding the gravy train as hard as they could are now just standing around whinging about how the public is assuming that all MPs are corrupt. They are not actually doing anything constructive like refusing to cooperate with the Parliamentary process until the “corrupt” ones are excluded.

The key here is quick action … not waiting for some careful review to come up with something in a few months, but action now. It does not have to be permanent action – simply exclude those “corrupt” MPs and appoint a bunch of real vicious individuals as a review board, and make the “corrupt” MPs explain their mistakes in front of the board and explain why they should be allowed to continue as an MP. Sure that is harsh on the border-line cases, but being harsh in these circumstances is good.

And if at the end of the review process everyone is still an MP, the political system may never recover.

More ridiculously, the Tories seem to have decided that what really gets up the nose of the public is the cost of the political system. It is really rather amusing to watch the Tory leadership run off down the wrong road as fast as they can for political advantage because it is not the cost that is annoying the public, it is the tendency for some MPs to milk the expenses system for as much as they can get.

One of their suggestions to reduce the cost of the political system is to reduce the number of MPs … this sounds to me like an attempt at reducing the amount of democracy we have in this country. With our ‘first past the post’ system, the more people an MP represents, the less representative he (or she) is of their constituents. If you compare (using some very rough figures) the number of people each MP represented in 1800 and today, you get one MP for every 15,000 people in 1800 and one MP for every 100,000 people today.

That sounds to me like a gradual erosion of how democratic Parliament is supposed to be (and yes I know that the 1800 MPs were probably more corrupt and less representative than today’s). We need more MPs not less.

Jun 292007
 

Well the answer to that question is not very … we elect representatives who make the necessary decisions on our behalf. Of course we’re a lot more democratic than some other places, and less that some others. For the record we’re probably more democratic than the ancient historical source of the idea of democracy … Athens. The Athens city state was only democratic if you were rich and male.

We happened to have had two examples of exactly how undemocratic the UK is this week … the resignation of Tony Blair and his replacement as Prime Minister by Gordon Brown, and the defection of Quentin Davies from the Conservative party to the Labour party.

The constituents of Grantham & Stamford are probably somewhat taken aback at finding themselves represented by a Labour MP; after all they were under the impression that they had voted for a Conservative MP. Well, no they hadn’t really … they really voted for Quentin Davies through thick and thin, and officially the party he belongs to is irrelevant. Of course his constituents might disagree, but their only avenue of complaint is when he tries to get re-elected.

Similarly nobody voted for Gordon Brown as Prime Minister. We all knew he was going to get into the hot seat of course … unlike Mr Grey’s (John Major) coup d’état where he replaced Margaret Thatcher. We didn’t have any say in the matter … the largest party’s leader is always (by convention) asked by the Monarch to become the Prime Minister. We may think that we are electing a Prime Minister (and the politicians encourage this), but really we ave no say in the matter except in having some influence on what party becomes the largest.

Does this need reforming ? Well perhaps, although there is always a danger in reform that we make things less stable. I think at the very least MPs who leave their party should resign their seat because we really are not living in a time where each MP acts more or less independantly.

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