The Futility Monster

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

The New Breed Of MPs

Posted by The Futility Monster on February 6, 2010 @ 17:03

Here's one tradition that we were fortunate to get rid of...

The upcoming election is both a real threat and a genuine opportunity for permanent change at the epicentre of British politics: the Houses of Parliament.

The extent of the wave will vary, all depending on how big a swing to the Tories Cameron can muster, but even without that, the unprecedented numbers of retirements – voluntary and involuntary – and resignations are going to bring a minimum of 150 new faces to the Commons. I predict we could be looking more around 200… which is nearly 1/3 of our so-called predominant chamber.

Add to that other MPs who have still only recently been elected, in 2005, and you’re looking at a new Parliament that will be new in every sense of the word.

The opportunity this presents is unprecedented. MPs with no institutional memory. MPs with fewer pre-determined constraints about the way things have been done. A Parliament that has a chance to reshape some of its most ridiculous rules and traditions, making them more practical and accountable.

But then there is the threat, and it is a serious one at that. New blood is all well and good, but the new breed have a very different view about what Parliament is for. It’s all about delivering the goods for constituents. Getting answers to their local issues, meeting ministers, pressing the flesh for useful PR purposes. Getting your soundbite in at PMQs which will have been pre-released to the local press regardless of what the actual answer from the Prime Minister is.

Whenever people ask me why I don’t go into politics, I invariably reply with “but most politics doesn’t interest me”. There is a world of difference between debating the principles and laws by which we’re governed, and trying to hold your government, or local council, to account for their actions; and being some sort of social caseworker seen as the key to resolving problems people have with the authorities.

While that is a very noble role, it is probably far better suited to local councillors, or a professional organisation with trained advocates. The Citizen’s Advice Bureau do a good job in this respect, but not all of their staff are professionals. Most are ordinary people hoping to give something to their community with their time.

A new Parliament, with hundreds of new MPs scampering to make names for themselves, looking to make the first step up the career ladder, could make for very cringe-worthy times ahead.

But at some point we need to ask ourselves: is this really what our foremost political institution is supposed to be doing?

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