The problem with Parliament


In the wake of the MP expenses scandal, much attention is being given to the way in which our elected representatives are remunerated. Many people think they are paid too much, or at least that their allowances are too generous. On the other hand, there seem to be plenty of people (particularly those involved in politics and the media) who believe that MPs are not paid enough. The argument goes that if we want to attract decent MPs, we need to pay them more.

Well, I'd say Jim Hacker deals with that one fairly well in the video above (fast-forward to 2 minutes). You could fill every seat in Parliament twenty times over, even if people had to pay for the privilege. And it wouldn't make any real difference to the quality of the policies produced in Westminster.

The simple fact is that MPs these days don't have much of a job. The House of Commons is now so dominated by the Government that it's barely a legislature at all. In fact, it's more like an electoral college: we elect them and then they (indirectly) determine who the prime minister (and government) will be. Then they're stuck to doing social work for their constituents until the next general election, unless they can suck up to the government enough to get a ministerial position.

Perhaps that's an oversimplification. There are some backbench MPs – John Redwood, for instance – who do excellent policy work. But they're the exception rather than the rule. And, ultimately, that suggests a very unhealthy political system.