Let's make Parliament more like us

I have occasionally ranted about MP’s in this blog and today will be no different.

Houses of Parliament
Houses of Parliament - where the lizards live
A part of me thinks that anybody who actively wishes to enter politics should be excluded from entering politics, although I also appreciate that this is probably unlikely to happen.

One of my big problems with politics is the lack of real-world experience enjoyed by many MP’s these days whose career seems to involve a politics degree, followed by a few years as a researcher for an MP or working at party HQ followed by standing for election themselves.  These people have absolutely no idea how their policies work in the real, everyday world that the rest of us inhabit.

I’m sure that most of them aren’t the evil world-domination lizard types dressed in human skin that they often appear to be… although I am sure some are actual lizards in human skin.  I’m sure some go  into politics because they want to better the world and help people.  Most seem to regard the political fight portrayed in shows like The Thick of It as their job, rather than their job being to make the lives of ordinary people better.

At the moment Ed Milliband is embroiled in a tedious battle with his own party over funding of the Labour party.  I don’t pretend to understand all the ins and outs of it and I care even less.  Many people couldn’t give a monkey’s whatsit about this battle between Ed and the unions.  Why is he fighting it?  Why doesn’t he tell Dave to sod off and mind his own business about how the Labour party is funded and produce some actual policies to fight the Tory’s with?  I can only imagine that he and the rest of the party leadership are so caught up in the act of politics that they have forgotten the point of politics.

How can we put the idea of career politicians to sleep and bring back representation by people with actual experience of living in the world?  I have a couple of ideas.

First, MPs would not be allowed to serve more than two-consecutive terms as MPs unless they reach cabinet level and were in cabinet at the end of their second-term.  Cabinet members would be allowed a maximum of three consecutive terms on the basis that they may have developed some expertise.  There would be a mandatory five-year break after any MP left Parliament before they could stand for election again.

Secondly, I would  require the party machines to be run more like the civil service with career politicos working to provide a support system for MPs rather than being MPs themselves.  Anybody employed by political parties (and subsidiaries of parties) would be banned from standing for Parliament for five-years from the date they left that employment (and of course while employed).

I think that this would  force political parties to select candidates from people outside the Westminster bubble and thus increase the skill set of those sitting in Parliament.


Incidentally, I’d also scrap the reforms of the House of Lords and keep the upper chamber as a reviewing body filled with appointees.  Again, nobody employed by a political party or a former MP would be eligible to sit in the Lords for five-years after leaving their employment/the Commons.  I don’t see how electing even more politicians is going to increase accountability when a) the Lords isn’t really that powerful; and b) only a tiny number of votes actually make a difference in General Elections anyway – if you don’t live in a marginal constituency your vote counts for nothing.

Comments

  1. The problem with proposal 1 (or something more radical, like randomly selecting MPs in the style of jury service) is that it gives the continuity and therefore more power to the civil service, which already has quite a lot -- look at the continued pressure on multiple governments to introduce identity cards, or the present government's utter reversal on PFI as soon as they got into power.

    I have always seen the virtue of the Lords as a means of stopping the wilder excesses of a government that dominates the Commons. Of course Blair could not put up with that.

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    1. I take your point about continuity; however, I'm not sure that existing MPs show that much backbone in the face of the civil service. It is also one of the reasons I suggest that party's should be run in a way that supports MPs. Let's not forget though that three terms for cabinet ministers, who are the one's mostly dealing with the civil service, is still 15-years experience. If you can't pluck up a backbone in that time you should probably be crawling back into the pond with the other fish. Also, my system would have MPs who are experienced in the world of work not just party people. Most people who have got on in their careers can develop the skills necessary to see-past civil service games and look at evidence. And, if the civil service is that much of a problem then let's reform it too.

      In any event, the current system makes them beholden to their party, which can boot them out at any time by deselecting them. I'd suggest that this makes them less likely to stand up to senior party members. My system leaves MPs knowing that they will have to go back to the real world and thus weakens the vice like grip politician's like Blair tried to hold.

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  2. Been a few years since I posted this but thought now occurs that in addition to the ideas I mentioned above, I would also consider adding open primary elections so that the political parties put up 2 or 3 candidates in each area and then anybody on the electoral roll for that constituency can vote on who they want to stand in the general election. I accept turn out would be low in these primaries but it would make MPs less beholden to the party bosses and possibly get a few more of them to stick to their promises - I say that having just seen that Nicola Blackwood MP for East Oxford voted against gay marriage after promising she would vote for it.

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