trust – tolerance – self-sufficiency
‘Why should you mind being wrong if someone can show you that you are’ - A J Ayer
Parliament being the highest authority in the land, its conduct influences all aspects of society and there can be little doubt that the appalling example it has set over recent years is directly responsible for the breakdown in mutual trust and respect that lies at the heart of most of our social ills.
Churchill said, ‘Democracy is the worst way to run a country except for all the others.’ It is necessarily messy and inefficient. It does not however, have to be as messy and inefficient as at present. Whatever great traditions Parliament has in preserving freedoms and as a forum for rational debate, they have all been badly eroded if not totally lost over the past few years.
The reasons for this are doubtless complex and deep-seated. Here are some of the more obvious:
- The only realistic route to becoming an MP, at the moment, is through one of the three main political parties. This necessarily makes loyalty to that party a priority.
- Many MPs are very isolated from the real world, having had little experience in proper jobs, and would have great difficulty earning their current salaries outside politics – just short of £1300 of your money, per week, plus much more than that available as still very poorly supervised expenses. (Basic state pension incidentally, is £114). This ties them further to their party.
- Many are lawyers and legal training is primarily about the study of events solely with a view to ‘winning’ in a highly artificial debating contest. It is also why most politicians imagine that problems can be solved by passing laws. They are at ease with taking a viewpoint – for whatever reason – and then selecting and presenting only such evidence as will justify it. This however, is the antithesis of real problem-solving, namely, honest and open truth-seeking, however grim the findings. It is often argued that lawyers are naturally the best people to draft laws, but, apart from the blatant conflict of interest implicit in that view, it has to be acknowledged that this simply does not happen. Many of the problems that Governments have to deal with arise precisely because the laws intended to deal with them are not only inappropriate but badly drafted as well.
- The working practices of Parliament are complicated, archaic and highly inefficient and help further isolate MPs from day-to-day reality by glossing pointless activities with the word ‘tradition’. Tradition however, is meant to guide not bind and there is a particularly teeth-grinding bitterness in listening to MPs self-righteously castigating both industry and the public service for not modernising and increasing efficiency, when they are so dismally inept at everything they turn to and cling so desperately to practices that were out-of-date in the 19th Century.
- Joining the EU has reduced MPs to mere ciphers, simply rubber-stamping European edicts. To avoid accepting what this means, many keep themselves ‘busy’ by acting as post boxes for correspondence between their constituents and various ministries, and as half-baked social workers.
All the above conspire to ensure MPs have no clear sense of purpose save to keep their seats and to keep their party in power no matter how manifestly incompetent or corrupt it might be. The net result of this impotence is that government falls inevitably to a very small group of individuals at the head of the party, and policies are never subjected to anything approaching a rigorous analysis. The consequences of this are all around us.
Leaving the EU and tidying up the mess it has left will automatically restore the obligation of MPs to be lawmakers and the working practices of both Houses of Parliament must be changed to ensure that this can be fulfilled by rational discussion rather than Party ‘sound bites’ designed for easy media presentation. Part of this will also be a rationalizing of their expenses system and, it being our money, exposing everything to public view. The principle will be adopted that MPs must be subject to the same difficulties as the rest of us.
The House of Lords must also be reformed so that it includes a substantial number of elected members in order to prevent excessive power falling again into the hands of the executive.
HELP AND INFORMATION WANTED
- Practical ideas for reforming the House of Lords.
- Practical ideas for breaking the domination of ‘Party discipline’ in the running of the House of Commons.
- Accurate analysis of time spent by MPs before election in ‘proper jobs’ – specifically excluding time spent practising law, journalism or being ‘something in the City’