Our Democracy: Members of Parliament

Brutus is an honourable man;
So are they all, all honourable men,

“And I also believe that there has not yet been enough recognition of the way that a Second Referendum could damage social cohesion by undermining faith in our democracy.”

https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/pm-statement-to-the-house-of-commons-on-brexit-21-january-2019

Like most statements in modern politics this one is pretty much devoid of any meaning.   But what is the reality of ‘our democracy’?

Democracy in Britain begins and ends with the House of Commons.   The House of Lords can be ignored because it cannot constrain or overrule the Commons.   The Devolved Parliaments can exercise devolved powers but these can be, and are, altered or removed at any time by a simple Act of Parliament passed in the Commons.   Local Authorities have their responsibilities tightly controlled by central government which they rely on for nearly all of their funding.

The Commons is made up of 650 Members of Parliament (MPs).   In the best of all possible worlds each MP would represent all of their constituents.   This is obviously not possible. In the current parliament all MPs were first elected as members of a political party and their first loyalty is to that party.   They are expected to obey the instructions of their party Whip. Whips in parliament are responsible for persuading, bribing, threatening, and otherwise coercing MPs into following party policy.   If this policy is contrary to the MP’s principles or the wishes of his constituents then too bad: they must still vote in line with their party’s policy.

Increasingly in Britain we are seeing professional politicians elected.   These people’s background tends to be school, often private; university, frequently Oxford; where they possibly study Law or perhaps ‘Philosophy,Politics, and Economics’: subjects with a very limited relationship with the real world.   On leaving university they quickly get a job with their chosen political party and immerse themselves in the Westminster culture. Their ambition is to be selected as a candidate, get elected as an MP, be promoted to a ministerial position, and so gain power.   Given this scenario is it any wonder that a government minister does not realise that Dover is a major port for UK freight traffic.

Further reading:

And for a really different way to select representatives

 
Written By Tommy, Yes Pollok Convener

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