MPs have to sort Parliament – not the Government

Posted by Richard D North under Uncategorized on 1 June 2009

Gordon Brown wants more rules and laws. Peter Hennessy wants MPs to show more character. Perhaps this is the big new divide on MPs, Parliament and The Constitution. MPs can best show character now by organising their own reform of their own House.

Gordon Brown has been telling the BBC (The Andrew Marr Show, 30 May 2009; The Today Programme, 1 June 2009) that voters want MPs to be more accountable to the constituents whom “they serve”. And he wants to be the man whose government proposes and introduces the Bills and Acts and independent quangoes which will monitor and control the process.

But we can be sceptical. A starting place would be to attend to the messages of Tony Wright and Peter Hennessy. (The latter was very good on Radio 4′s Broadcasting House about the time Mr Brown was on the Marr show.)

Firstly, Parliament is supreme, so there is no logical possibility of something outside Parliament controlling it. Secondly, MPs already serve their constituents too much, instead of being trusted boldly to represent them in accordance with their own consciences, their party promises and – yes – constituency pressure. Thirdly, insofar as we are in a mess it is because MPs have been weak enough to allow their parties, the Government and their constituents to hijack them.

It follows that this is a good moment for party bosses and the Government to be seen to insist that this is a very good time for parliamentarians to rent a large hall somewhere and not emerge until they have something decent to say about how they’d like to run their institution from here on in.

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