MPs’ job is about making better laws, not local drudgery

Why do MPs require two homes anyway? In the firestorm over MPs’ expenses, attention is turning to what MPs actually do in the constituencies that eats up so much time that a second home is necessary. This goes to the heart of an MPs role. – is s/he more of the amateur social worker Matthew Taylor defends than a lawmaker? An entry in Our Kingdom puts it well. A lot of this local effort is really part of the permanent election campaign. Only a generation ago, the MP dropped in on the constituency once or twice a month. Then over the past 30 years or so, constituency parties began to demand residence as the price of nomination. This has gone too far. In this session, the Commons is sitting for less than half the year. The place starts to empty now after PMQs on a Wednesday. At the same time, complaints are rising about the poor scrutiny of legislation. MPs are generally pretty ineffective locally anyway, as shadow home secretary Chris Grayling admits. .For the past 30 years, NI MPs and nationalists of all kinds have been different as the focus of their attention was back home. Pre-1972 though, Unionists Westminster and Stormont had limited contact and often took different lines. Nowadays with double jobbing gradually coming to an end, our sitting MPs too will face the same choice as GB members. MPs should be allowed to stop pretending they make much of a difference locally and should concentrate on making better laws. Our local elected representatives will have to stop harvesting public posts like mediaeval clerics.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London