Friday, 14 January 2011

Democratic deficit

All those who take an interest in our democracy and its workings, have criticisms which are eloquently aired on a number of occasions.One aspect of the democratic deficit that has received little coverage is that of every constituent's ability to have their Member of Parliament raise their case in the House of Commons.

Last Tuesday, following the debate on the European Union Bill, David Amess, MP for Southend West, began - at 10:34pm - an impassioned plea on behalf of his constituent Joanna Cranfield, his speech which can be read here - and one that I would beg you do read - it is a 'heart-rending' plea. (Hansard Column 261). Amess was fighting for his constituents plight, highlighting her enormous physical disabilities, whilst querying why having attained the age of 16 those benefits should cease. He did so in a chamber that had just two opposition MPs, a Deputy Speaker and The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Maria Miller) in attendance - the latter who, in answer to David Amess, could only, in effect, 'pass the buck'.

At least Joanna Cranfield had a Member of Parliament who could get to his feet and fight her plight - which is more than can be said for those consitutents who have the fortune, or should that be misfortune, of having as their constituency Member of Parliament, the Prime Minister. There may well be 'mechanisms' whereby this can be done on a Prime Minister's behalf - I admit that I know not - however this would appear to leave those in Witney constituency 'dis-enfranchised' as David Cameron cannot do that which David Amess did.

This aspect of 'dis-enfranchisement' is further complicated when, as a constituent, you are told by your constituency MP (who is also the PM) that national policy will remain supreme over any 'supposed defects' or 'complaints' in regard local policy. Neither does it help when your constituency MP, on assuming the position of PM, then disables his previous email address at without any public notice being issued! And we wonder why politicians suffer 'dis-connect' with the electorate?

Is it any wonder that there are those amongst us who would like nothing better than to hang the lot of them and start again?


Edward Spalton said...

I was with Nigel Spearing a few nights ago, a retired Labour MP who chaired the European Committee for many years and was also the last back bencher to speak (against) before the winding up of the debate on the European Communities Act 1972.

He made the point that a constituent is always "only one man away" from the Prime Minister - his MP. I had not thought of the problem you state . I hope to have the chance of asking him about it. Nigel was responsible for three quite significant private member's Bills off his own bat and is a fount of knowledge on Parliament. There are almost always precedents for things, if you know where to look.

WitteringsfromWitney said...

Edward: Obviously, I would be interested to hear Nigel Spearing's views - wait your email with interest!

The problem I raise is not one that I think the majority have thought about!

WitteringsfromWitney said...

Edward: As an afterthought it also raises the question why such an important basic 'right' should be relegated to a 'slot' in which most MPs are on their way home.

On the basis MPs are supposed to represent their constituents, is not their constituent' plight more important than MP's expenses? It would seem that MPs have a skewed level of priorities!

Chris Edwards said...

I suspect a few hangings is the only device left to gfain the rests attention, how about a vote forwho should be first?

Voyager said...

I doubt the MP in question would pay attention unless the constituent attended a City cocktail party where he is probably at his most open speaking with his backers.

The only prospect is to approach Select Committee Chairmen since the idea that only your Constituency MP can address issues leaves you victim.

The squeaky wheel gets the grease and that means Extra-Parliamentary Activity to embarrass said Member through Media, Blog, Select Committee, Opposition Spokesman

Hanging is a great idea....first Pride's Purge and transporting MPs to the 3 pubs "Hell, Heaven and Purgatory" as with Col. Pride

WitteringsfromWitney said...

CE: I'm all for that as I truly believe it is only by a few examples will the rest change their ways!

Voyager: Might try that suggestion and meanwhile, will keep blogging!