Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Why MPs work for their party and not their electorate

Zac Goldsmith has an article in the New Statesman regarding what he sees as a deficit within our democracy, in that he believes MPs are forced to consider their careers in politics, above their prime responsibility to their constituents.

This is a topic on which I have posted previously, as regular readers will be aware. There are members of parliament who do put their constituents above any intention to forge a career within politics and the two Philips, Davies and Hollobone, are perhaps examples that immediately spring to mind.
From Goldsmith's article:
"A backbench MP is paid to do two things - hold the government to account and vote in a way that is good for the people they represent. The present structures ensure they do neither, and the effect is that decisions taken by a very small number of politicians are subjected to virtually no scrutiny at all.

You have only to look at the maths. Nearly a third of MPs are on the "payroll". That includes ministers, shadow ministers and also parliamentary private secretaries, who are not paid, but who are bound by the code of loyalty that requires them always to vote with the government. Of the remaining two-thirds of MPs, most want to join the payroll. That requires a political lobotomy, and unthinking submission to the party line.

Loyalty is one thing, but we have reached an extreme. If a backbench MP speaks out against a government decision, it is seen as an act of aggression. If he tables a minor amendment, it's worse still. And if he votes against his party, it's an act of career suicide.
The points Goldsmith makes in those three paragraphs are true and they do not just apply to the Conservative Party. His point about the Localism Bill and that the recall of an MP is still with that MP's fellow politicians is also true - on the same point of principle though, he fails to mention that within that same bill, whilst referenda can be called, local authorities have been given the power to ignore the results if they so wish.

There are many other deficits about which Goldsmith has not written, which is a great pity; and to give him the benefit of doubt, that may be due to space limitations imposed on him. Whilst it is refreshing to see an MP speak out about democratic deficit(s) and the only other MP to continually do this - and blog on the subject - is, to my knowledge, Douglas Carswell, it is a great pity that more MPs do not follow likewise.

Much is in the news presently about the AV referendum with arguments from both sides of the divide, some true and some false. What is apparent though is that whilst the present political system exists, any change to whatever new system of voting is selected, it will not make one iota of difference to how MPs behave, it will not make them work harder and it most definitely will not make them more answerable to their constituents.

Fiddling with the system of voting - for fiddling is what it is in more than one sense of the word 'fiddling' - is just tinkering with the problem we have in politics. What is needed is total reform of the whole political world and the majority of those in it as both, to be honest, stink to high heaven.


derek.buxton1 said...

He is treading on dangerous ground there, what of his link to the EU with the "green" antics that would put us out of business and short of energy. Democracy cannot exist in this Country whilst we are ruled by Brussels. He is correct about MPs being poodles but that is their fault not ours. They should do their duty at whatever cost to themselves.

WitteringsfromWitney said...

d.b1: Agreed but let us be thankful that he has said what he has. About time some of the others started developing a backbone!

Hugh said...

Removing Party tags from ballot slips would be a good small practical step.

WitteringsfromWitney said...

H: I have seen this suggestion elsewhere too, although I believe it would make no difference whilst candidates are imposed by party HQs.