Friday, 1 May 2009

The weakness of MPs

I am not one for singling out bloggers and picking fights but...

Tom Harris has said something which has irked me.

"As I’ve said on this site before, I believe in the party system. I do not believe that MPs are elected purely for their own personal views; they’re elected because they represent one party or another. Major’s government collapsed when his MPs saw no reason to toe the party line."

I am not going to criticise Tom Harris MP specifically, as I am in no doubt that he is not alone in this view. But I have long believed that political parties are detrimental to the progress of this country, especially in our current situation.

The parties, although giving a simpler 'Party of Government' and 'Opposition Parties' divide, are designed to benefit themselves and their members.

Parties create a divide on issues, not based upon the proposed policy, but based on whether it's a Tory or Labour or Lib Dem proposal. Only very rarely does party politics not get in the way of progress (the Ghurka vote being one). Whips are employed to persuade MPs to vote against their own views, views which they believe would be better for the country, as opposed to the party.

The argument that "they're elected because they represent one party or another" is utter nonsense. Yes, the majority of the time, MPs are elected purely based upon which party they are a member of, however, I do not believe that constituents that vote for, say, a Labour MP a) agree 100% of the time with 100% of Labour's policies and b) expect that MP to vote blindly with 100% of those policies. Indeed, Mr Harris himself hasn't "toed the line" with his party on a range of issues from House of Lords reform to abortion limits. (I also believe that voters vote based on party because of apathy, having become unable to determine which schmuck is less schmucky than the other guy - though this, in particular, is not directed at Tom Harris).

MPs in my idealistic view, are elected to vote for what they think is right and against what they think is wrong. The party shouldn't come into it when it comes to governance and policy for the country - it is politics which creates the problems and parties create these politics.

Parties would rather gain the credit, or avoid the criticism, than do the right thing. Why, for example, are we as a country not going to be paying off our national debt, but instead increasing it, for the two years taking us to after the next election? It is to delay voters feeling the financial pain until after they can react in an election. It is to give people a false economy of how much we earn, how much is spent on public services etc so that Labour can get a few more years in power, as opposed to what is best for the country.

The average person in the UK is not a member of a political party. The avergae person doesn't care or know much about politics and I would confidently guess that in my age group, most people do not know the name or party of their local MP.

Any MP who feels the same as Tom's comments should be embarrassed. To an extent, what he is saying is that "it's not my qualities that I am judged on, it is just because I'm a member of one group or another". To admit that it is not their judgement, but their ability to obey when told what to do, is a shameful indictment of UK politics, and in particular, UK politicians.
To then claim that "in the private sector" we could earn up to £100,000 makes the whole argument hilarious. To be able to do what your told could also, "in the private sector" earn you £5.73/hour, if the only requirement is doing as your told.

"governments fall apart when discipline fails" (Tom Harris)

"discipline fails when the government's direction and intentions are wrong" (Political Dissuasion)

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