So, today we had three announcements: Michael Martin will resign as speaker (and stand down as MP triggering a by-election), Douglas Hogg (he of moat dredging fame) will not be re-standing as an MP and Gordon Brown has decided that MPs who broke the rules (which I believe we'll find to be virtually no-one except perhaps the phantom mortgage claimers) will not be allowed to re-stand as Labour MPs. So, we got some scalps. Are we all warm and content now? FUCK NO!
This expenses row is only one small part of the public's growing anger with a parliamentary system which is clearly not fit for a modern democracy.
Martin's resignation as speaker comes after many mistakes and come from him losing the respect of the majority of the house of commons. But guess what – most people don't see him to blame. Most would be hard pressed to identify what his actual job was and why therefore he is responsible. He presided over this mess, he presided over the Damien Green cock-up, he called the police to investigate the expenses leak (who have now said they won't investigate as the public interest defense would be far too strong to allow a prosecution), he blocked attempts of reform of the expenses system. All this led to him losing the respect of those he was meant to lead/protect.
David Cameron has completely wiped the floor with Gordon Brown in displays of leadership over this and many other things recently. Brown has flipped from asking Sir Christopher Kelly's committee to coming up with proposals for reform (a sensible thing, let them deal with coming up with some proposals that would be measured and thought through) to all of a sudden, seemingly with no consultation or forethought, unleashing a (much ridiculed) YouTube pronouncement of reform which he then had to partly back down from due to the sheer stupidity of his proposals. You can add to that losing the Gurkah vote, his 10p tax rate cock up and the attempt to fix it. This is the sort of leadership that Gordon Brown is presenting and that the Northwest Labour Party is keen to promote in it's European Election leaflet:
It's Gordon Brown's leadership that will get us through these tough times.
Labour is going to get a kicking.
By contrast, Cameron has shown good leadship over the expenses system, but even he doesn't go far enough to fully restore trust. By focusing solely on the current expenses scandal, he ignores the wider parliamentary reform that is needed. Jon Snow pointed out on yesterday's Channel 4 News that the motion of no confidence in the speaker would not get debated without the government's permission. The government has too much of a stranglehold over parliamentary processes and that needs looking at. One of the proposals that come out of the expenses scandal has been that MPs should not be allowed second jobs. This ignores the fact that being a minister, a secretary of state a speaker or the PM is effectively a second job – how can Jacqui Smith hold the government to account on behalf of her constituents? How can Brown be said to be a good MP?
So, Parliament is controlled by a government I have had no direct say over. My vote goes towards who will represent my constituency (the people living in an area of land). I am not a member of any political party so get no chance to vote for their leader. I have no say over who our Prime Minister is. I have no say over who our government is. My MP is Helen Southworth, a Labour arch-loyalist who has never rebelled against her party. An MP who is so “abohorred” by discrimination of any form that she stayed out of the Equality Bill second reading coming in only to vote with her party. What is the fucking point of that?
We need a parliament that is able to hold our government to account. We do not have that.
We need a parliament which is able to act on public opinion. We do not have that.
We need a parliament we can trust and respect. We do not have that.
I sometimes get tempted to stand for MP but am not convinced I would be able to do what is needed. The system would prevent me from being able to do anything without some form of party support. I like the way that Jury Team is trying to challenge the system with open primaries and setting itself as a party of independents, however, as I've said before I don't agree with all their (limited) policies and want to stand under the same banner as, for instance, the number one choice for Northwest MEP who wants to promote homeopathy.