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Sunday, 17 May 2009

Expenses are only the symptom, not the disease

Those who want to see politics treated as a 'profession' are dangerously closer to their goal today. One loud chorus of voices are calling for the structures of commercial and industrial executives to be applied to MPs; an expenses code, a nine to five working day and no doubt annual performance reviews, with party HQs becoming Human Resources departments, recruiting graduate trainees for a career with 'the firm'. Those who read this blog regularly will realise the revulsion I have for any such move.

Politics is not a profession. Professions are closed shops; their members create barriers to entry to exclude outsiders, and then work to improve their mutual well-being - exactly the opposite of healthy democratic politics. I believe it is largely the efforts of those misguided fools who have sought to treat politics as though it were a profession over the past few decades that have landed us with this mess. The central Statist parties. The 'A' lists. The blow-ins. The rules-based systems. The calls for fat executive salaries and rewards. The self-serving exclusiveness of the political class.

The expenses scandal is just a symptom, not the disease. The disease is a weak Commons undermined both by Europe and by a system of central Statist party patronage; the disease is the greed of a new breed of constituency MPs for place and preferment.

Charles Moore had the germ of it in yesterday's Telegraph. So did Guido.

A powerful Commons, a strong Parliament well-stocked with independent minded MPs, MPs who have entered the House to bring something to it, not to take something from it, must see the saving of our democracy. Unless the three main parties reinvigourate their grass roots by a massive devolution of power from central office they will soon slip below a combined membership threshold of 1% of the electorate. Open primaries will do much to dispose of the inane delusion that politics is a 'profession'. MPs are beginning to realise their future lies with the voters in their constituencies, not with the management consultants in party HQ. Voters will be far less tribal, and will start to look at the person and not just the party.

The Mail reports today that the public overwhelmingly feels a salary of £60k - £70k is right for MPs, and I agree. So a bonfire of the allowances then, and expenses on the same basis as the rest of the nation. And an encouragement for MPs to continue to pursue their trade or profession whilst in Parliament, for this will keep them anchored in the real world while continuing to reward those with merit and discouraging the pestilence of 'professional' politicians .

It's our Commons and they are our representatives. Let's reclaim our democracy from the political class.


Newmania said...

I `m not so sure , when the Labour representation committee was set up to provide the means for working people to be represented it was , in my view a heroic force for good .
This was along time ago of course but now while the Unions still provide a small section of the Public sector with access ,ordinary working people ( who might be estate agents instead of engineers and miners) are just as excluded as their predecessors. The Commons now has no representation either ion the Conservative front bench or , of course, in the Labour Party
Such people are natural Conservatives but I think the Party has to think harder about providing a career path . It is no the money you get paid when you are there it’s the endless sacrifice top get there and the necessity to have personal Capital in the first place . The end result is that there is virtually no-one in the Commons with any experience as it is lived by the majority of the voters and virtually All the tax payers

I cannot say I have come up with a solution and I daresay we sons of Martha will just have to bitch at the toffs who run the Conservative Party as ever

The Great Simpleton said...

I like the sound of an annual performance review, its much better than a 5 year one, although a bit expensive.

I also liked the comment from Chris Dillow (Stumbling and Mumbling)- most of them seem to spend their time as Social Workers, so pay them the same ie about £20k.

Anonymous said...

MPs are creatures of the Whips and Whitehall. Basically, if you vote the right way, you get your Bang&Olufsens, champagne flutes (Ian McCartney) and shiny baubles, and if you vote the wrong way, you're stopped from any advancement towards the Cabinet. And any time an MP tries to think about an issue, the lobby journalist toadies (who should be investigated also) cry about division in the party. Until Britain is once again in charge of its affairs by ditching the EU, we'll have cardboard cutout politicians who only care about their appetites.