The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

Probably The Most Important Political News In A While

Posted by The Futility Monster on November 24, 2009 @ 09:16

A remarkable photo of our new Hero of Parliamentary Reform. When he had more hair.

Forget the Iraq War inquiry today. It begins taking evidence. So what? The damn thing is going to take years, and will probably still not tell us what most of us already know: it was criminally negligent, illegal and strategically the dumbest thing we could have ever done. Oh, and resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands. Nice one, George.

The problem though is that this little event is going to outdo the most important bit of political news there has been for some time.

Today, a parliamentary committee, chaired by one of the Commons’ most ardent reformists, Tony Wright, will deliver its damning verdict on what’s wrong with the Commons and what can be done about it.

Those of us who’ve been following politics since we were in short trousers, and even younger, know most of these arguments inside out. Debates are poorly attended. MPs parliamentary duties could be fit neatly into two days at most. Whips have too much control. The government shouldn’t have complete control of the Commons’ agenda. Backbenchers need more powers of scrutiny and alternative career paths. And so on, and on and on…

And so the Wright committee have come up with a range of solutions, all of which sound pretty good to me. Stronger, more independent select committees. More time for petitions. A business committee with no government control. More topical relevance.

We’ve heard them all before, and most of them were even in new Speaker John Bercow’s manifesto. So we know he’ll be fighting for them. That’s a good start, but there is one critical part of this equation…

“Never allow a crisis to go to waste”
Rahm Emanuel, President Obama’s Chief of Staff

The big question is time.

The response from the government has hardly been very welcoming. Harriet Harman has said they will “consider” it, before going on to praise the wonderful reforms they’ve already done, in typical Labour-drone fashion.

Unsurprisingly, the response from the Tories has been to say, “it’s marvellous and must be done immediately”. Paraphrased, of course. And no doubt the Lib Dems will love it, but say it should go much further.

But so what, you might say. The Tories are going to win, and they will implement reforms even if Labour don’t.

Not so fast. The list of governments being elected with huge promises of parliamentary reform is long and boring. The list of governments that have actually carried out these plans can be scribbled on the back of a postage stamp.

Yes. Power corrupts. New governments soon realise that it really would be rather inconvenient for them to be subject to the kind of scrutiny powers they once desired in opposition.

And so they get kicked into the long grass.

We can but hope that this time is different. That enough MPs realise that these long overdue reforms must be implemented quickly before the appetite for reform from the public drops off the agenda.

This time, I would like to be pleasantly surprised by our politicians.

But I suspect most of them will be more concerned about preparing for a nice, long, happy retirement.

God bless Labour MPs!

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