Sunday, June 16, 2024

Are MPs up to the job?

Until July 5 we’re enjoying a blessed holiday from Westminster prodnosing - no Covid-era gaggles of MPs in meeting rooms giggling ‘Whatever can we make them do next?’

Actually, for some of that time they had interim arrangements that let them WFH. Insofar as they worked at all - nono, that’s not fair: many are grafters; but here is an extract from a 2007 study of MPs’ hours and expenses:

Who managed to get their Westminster hours down to four? Timothy Ferriss’ ‘4 Hour Workweek’ book also came out in 2007 but clearly there was at least one clever-clogs politician who had already cracked it. Was it the same one who held no surgeries?

Maybe it’s to do with the Party system. Vote the way you’re told (and even then, only if the division looks to be close) and otherwise you’re free to write books, hold down a handful of directorships and so on. You’ll have constituency workers to deal with all the rats-and-drains stuff if you can’t be bothered.

A safe seat, that’s the thing. Where I live I could vote for the man in the moon but I’m going to get a Labour MP, even now, I’d put money on it. The only time that changed in recent history was in 2010 when people were fed up to the back teeth with the Blair/Brown disaster and turned to the LibDems rather then have a Tory. It was also the one and only time I was visited by a couple of the candidates; the LibDem’s owlish face exuded contempt when I told him my hot-button issue was the EU, while the Labourite’s companion stifled a smirk at her apparatchik’s ignorance when he tried to tell me that the 1975 referendum had settled the issue of national sovereignty.

This time there’s a possibility that George Galloway’s Workers Party candidate could split the Labour vote here somewhat though many of our aspirant Asians are not so exercised about Gaza; but the Conservative support could split even more significantly, between those scared back into the fold by what Peter Hitchens has publicised about Starmer’s plan to perma-ruin what’s left of the Constitution, and those who now hate the Tory Party’s guts and want it dead and buried after fourteen treacherous and incompetent years.

Electoral Calculus is currently (14 June) predicting 461 seats for Labour, 23 more than Blair’s historic 1997 landslide. Yet whatever the margin, if the Reds do get in they will still have a legitimation problem: as with EU membership, constituency-based voting is not adequate to authorise what Starmer (with Gordon ‘that bigoted woman’ Brown) is planning to do to us. The voting system is so skewed that it cannot possibly be a fair representation of the settled will of the people on monumentally important matters; we must have a clear, thorough and unbiased discussion of such proposals. Not that we’ll get it… yet.

Nor do our leaders themselves always take the trouble to do the spadework. You may remember our then Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd on the day of the Maastricht Treaty (7 Feb 1992): ‘Now we’ve signed it, we had better read it.’ He might have been joking, but I doubt it. Perhaps it is typical of the posh Etonian work ethic: painstaking work is what you hire other, little men to do.

How many MPs read and understand the Bills on which they vote? How many listen to the debates? Look at the empty green benches when Andrew Bridgen delivered unwelcome news on Covid issues: our supposed representatives were careful to ‘shun the frumious bandersnatch’; lots of Jabber when it suits them, but no Wocky when it matters.

Maybe Parliament has forgotten the discipline of power. We have only been free of the EU since 31 January 2020 - just over four years. For 47 years Westminster increasingly delegated its responsibilities to Brussels; and under the Blair project domestic control was passed over to regional assemblies, new mayorships, secondary legislation (which Parliament struggles to supervise) and a host of ‘quasi NGO’ bodies. The latter are headed by a privileged class of nibblers-and-sippers overseeing such success stories as water companies and the Post Office; they seem largely above failure and hop about like a mob of quangaroos.

We have to repatriate power, not just from the EU, the ECHR, the ICJ and so forth but also from all the national loci into which government has dissipated its vital energies.

That is not going to happen in 2024. We have to plan not so much for the seemingly unstoppable incoming administration as for the one after it. It is like the 1660 Restoration after Cromwell, who not only killed the King but destroyed the royal regalia, dismissed the Parliament whose army he had led, and instituted an oppressive, joyless ideological reign that divided the country into ten regions each run by a major-general. We had to stitch the two halves of kingly rule together after eleven years of the Interregnum; that is how radical (or counter-radical) we were forced to be.

Those who love our country and the democracy enshrined in Parliament must now diligently toil to make themselves fit for power, against the time when freedom becomes again a possibility.

1 comment:

James Higham said...

The prime, essential question … are they? How did they manage to get there?