Tuesday, 23 February 2010

On Parliament and the role of MPs

Labour MP Natascha Engel:

But we are moving in totally the wrong direction. I don’t know how many times I hear people demanding a more consensual style of politics, asking us to put aside political affiliations and work for the good of the people that elected them. This is only making it worse.

After the expenses scandal, this view has become even more dominant. Yet the vast majority of us were elected only because we stood for a political party. In fact, Parliament is predicated on the very existence of political parties. It’s how we organise ourselves.

But our system breaks down when our political parties are not ideologically distinct. Today, we define our differences by dividing lines. We ask a small group of people — a focus group — what they care about, and then ask them what they want us to do about it. That’s not politics. That’s marketing. It’s turning us into admen and PR agents.

The politics of focus groups makes politicians reactive. We should lead, persuade and inspire. We should argue for what we think is right, even if popular opinion is against us. Leadership is about taking risks, even if that means losing our positions as a result.

Politics and politicians need to encourage big ideas and promote different ways of organising our society. Parliament should be a forum for clashing ideas again. And politicians need to rediscover that being an MP is about more than doing a job. It’s about being in a privileged position to put into practice deeply held beliefs and ideas.

When we debate parliamentary reform this week, we need to talk about getting back to first principles. Papering over the cracks won’t do any more. We need to tear down the flock wallpaper and fix the plasterwork underneath.

Well written, well thought out piece - read it. I think she's right - Parliament should be a place where ideas clash, MPs should be thinkers, legislators - as well as people who hold the executive to account.

The "expenses reforms" miss the point. I've already posted about why the new IPSA quango is wrong - in fact it subverts democracy further. The problem in this country is that the executive and the European Union hold too much power - and MPs aren't really sure what their role is.

They should be scrutinising legislation, coming up with ideas themselves - Parliament, the mother of all Parliaments, should be where great minds come together to really get the best solution.

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