Thursday, 2 July 2015

PR won't make much difference

You only have to tune into BBC Question Time to realise that most MPs are numpties who know very little about and awful lot. What's more dangerous is they thing they know a great deal and spend much of their time in the SW1 bubble which not only reinforces ignorance but insulates from new ideas. This is why I'm unconvinced that tinkering with the voting system would make a difference.

What it does mean is we get lunatic fringes like the Greens and Ukip adding yet more stupidity to the mountain that already exists. Some argue it means that parliament then become more representative with "real people" which is an argument once made myself, but when you examine this current crop of MPs, I don't recall a time where I have been more underwhelmed by them. They are as ordinary as ordinary gets. The SNP proves that First Past the Post is surmountable if you have your act together in ways Ukip has not.

PR still doesn't solve the problem of poor decisions made by a remote government. The people we sent there are not the problem. It's the culture of the SW1 bubble which engenders a "come to do good, stay to do well" attitude in politicians. Adding more morons to the mix doesn't get close to approaching the problem.

What we have is an inherent disconnect between policy and outcome. Our politicians enter bidding wars of virtue signalling which is why we end up with statutory minimum spending levels on feel-good issues. Their main source of information is gossip from within the bubble, aided and abetted by a depressingly shallow media which in itself is a closed shop.

And then look at what government now concerns itself with. Yesterday we had Lord Nash, an education minister, answering questions in the House of Lords about the powers that “teachers in the state sector have to inspect children's lunch boxes and to confiscate items that they deem unsuitable”. Teachers can lawfully “confiscate, keep or destroy” unhealthy snacks in children’s school lunch boxes, a Government minister has said.

Is this what government is really for? At best this is a parish level decision assuming it is any of the state's business what is in children's lunchboxes. Frankly unless it's a deadly breed of scorpion, it's no business of any teacher. So we must ask, why have decisions like this gravitated to London and why has a minister got such time on his hands to pontificate on such tiresome minutia - especially when schools are badly failing?

In essence, this is displacement activity because many of the critical decisions on law and regulation are now made elsewhere (Brussels and Geneva), effectively making parliament redundant. In order to pretend it is still relevant, Westminster has confiscated powers from local authorities so now we have London telling Newcastle what to do.

Unless we change the constitution, defining the scope and limitations of Westminster, and change the culture of obedience and conformity in the commons, then a change in the voting system will have no meaningful effect. What we need is proper separation of powers so that every MP is the opposition to government. We need our local authorities to be sovereign entities capable of refusing Whitehall diktat. Finally, we need Westminster to focus on the issues that matter - trade, defence and foreign policy. In order to do that we need our independence from the EU.

The truth is, we don't need full time MP's. What we really need is a mechanism for self-government (The Harrogate Agenda) so we can send these dorks their P45's. Westminster should be a chamber for discussing national emergencies, like a war council, and one that remains closed for most of the year. An MP's job should not be so all consuming that it necessitates an executive salary. Let the cities and towns run their own affairs - and tell the politicians to keep their noses out our business - and our lunchboxes too.

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