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.

  • Denis Cooper

    Off-topic but topical, we are now just hours away from the European Commission being legally reduced to a one man band.

    All the present Commissioners other than the recently re-appointed President Barroso will become ex-Commissioners at midnight CET, when their five year terms expire.

    There’s a pretence that their terms have been extended until after the Lisbon Treaty has come into force, but that is simply not permitted under the relevant provisions in the treaties.

    If anyone doubts that, they could try asking:

    “Precisely which treaty articles have been used to allow the Commissioners to remain in post beyond the end of their five year terms?”

    There’ll be no answer, because there are no such treaty articles.

    So much for the rule of law within the EU.

  • DC

    Balls Brian, if it is about making better laws they don’t even bother listening to the educated massive in the civil service / state research teams – where there are 1000s of extremely well-paid people helping them out with that – for instance re drugs they ignore scientific facts which gets in the way of their phoney moralism.

    They also have around 645 MPS x 60k or so others ‘Chief Execs’ helping them out to make laws plus the Westminster draughtspersons and quasi-legal people there helping them out. Basically they have squads of people wiping their own asses i.e. supporting them in terms of research, law framing and debating etc plus independent legal advice and opinion – not forgetting to mention the Lords as well.

    They also as an MP have staff or teams of people working under them as well drawing in office costs as much as their salaries are worth as well.

    They take on the work because they think they have to in part which at times is right and secondly they take on so much work because they love being in the thick of it as they are nosey geeky gits who alternatively would be fretful if they were left out of community happenings.

    NO NO NO!

  • DC

    Politics isn’t a career, you pick issues which matter try and change those things for an electoral term or two if you cant be the change you promised you get voted out.

    The reason why all political careers end in failure is that they use moralism as an edifying platform on which to stand but end up getting found out.

    Perhaps if the MPs were more in tune with the people and ditched it they might have more chance of being effective and not getting found out.

    The internet is creating a new dynamic where authority is slipping away and people are relying on necessity to inform their judgements and that of life experience.

    Upfront moralistic stances hold little buy-in and the effects on the public are diminishing – MPs are finding themselves on the wrong side of this generation. The days of being compelled into doing things are fast slipping away and legislation needs to be changed, otherwise the enforcement system will collapse due to its own incompetence.

    Don’t do drugs – they are bad?
    (What about your wars aren’t they bad too? Why are drugs bad whenever scientists disagree – why can’t you give heroin to heroin addicts via a GP surgery if poppies in Afghanistan are for nothing and it could financially support poppy growers there and get people off drugs here for less bother – why use methadone? Moralism???)

    Downloading music is illegal and wrong?
    (Yes but it’s free and didn’t you guys just rip-off the tax payer?)

    Global warming is costly and dangerous to the planet!
    (What about your personal drivers and re-imbursement for car travel and fees – get rid of that too? Why haven’t you the government taken any action re better public transport – more integrated sustainable energy networks running the public transport system)

    You get my drift anyway.

  • Actually, an MP is a final defense against stubborn local bureaucracy. Because they can take up any case, and can say what they like in Parliament, they can force local councils and civil servants to take a constituent’s problem seriously, rather than fobbing them off. Maybe this role has increased as national bureaucracy has increased at the expense of local government.

    So this is often a more important part of their role than voting how their parties instruct them.

  • Pigeon Toes

    “Actually, an MP is a final defense against stubborn local bureaucracy. Because they can take up any case, and can say what they like in Parliament, they can force local councils and civil servants to take a constituent’s problem seriously, rather than fobbing them off.”

    And the reality?

  • aquifer

    “A lot of this local effort is really part of the permanent election campaign.”

    So we should pay the parties to do it.

    The Republic is in a mess because TDs in Multi-Seat constituencies have to keep sucking up to their local constituency. They have no time for opposition, and in government they just try to steer government spending down their way.

    Most of our MLAs were councillors with the same kind of local flesh-pressing pork belly talents.

    Should we be surprised if they fail to legislate?

  • Junior Apparatchik

    Excellent post, Brian.

    An MP’s job is to legislate – in London. Not one of the Unionist MPs spends enough time in London to do that effectively – and Republicans are absent anyway!

    We need better.