Hard working MPs, an opportunity for Labour, a mistake by Nick Clegg – and other unlikely propositions

May 18, 2009 by
Filed under: Politics 

A bittersweet Sunday: I managed to run the 10k of the Great Manchester Run in 41 minutes 27 seconds, which made me 460th out of 33,000. I’m not even going to pretend I’m not pleased with myself. Thanks again to all those who kindly sponsored me.

But my beloved Baggies were relegated. It was great to see our manager getting a standing ovation for at least trying to play good football, but the harsh reality is that in four Premiership seasons spaced over the last decade West Brom have never once managed to make 35 points!

I want to blog about the Manchester run, which was a fantastic experience, but first, today, final thoughts about MPs.

There is some slightly more thoughtful comment today. Bruce Anderson says we should blame spouses and Liberals for the expenses disaster. Anderson also points out that there was a time when MPs could get away with hardly visiting their constituencies. Indeed, while we are wallowing in contempt for our elected representatives, there are three things worth noting about today’s MPs in comparison to those elected 30 years ago:

• They work much harder in their constituencies

• Through the Select Committee system, they undertake much more rigorous and detailed scrutiny of the Executive

• They rebel more often against their Party leadership (a surprise, I know, but clearly backed up by the statistics)

Also today in the Independent (buy it while you can) Douglas Carswell MP, after expressing contempt for his Parliamentary colleagues, makes the interesting point that if we had multi-member constituencies, voters could stick with their Party while punishing fiddling MPs. It is rare to hear a Conservative arguing – on whatever grounds – for electoral reform.

As it tries to arrest its apparent slide into oblivion, Labour needs big ideas. Here’s one: why not pledge to hold a referendum on electoral reform on the date of the next general election. Here’s why:

• It makes good on one of Labour’s big undelivered promises from the 1997 election.

• It is a scandal that a Party can gain total control of the Executive on fewer than 40% of the votes.

• Minority administrations elected through more proportionate electoral systems in Scotland and Wales may not be without flaws but they are governing perfectly adequately.

• As Carswell says, a multi member system could be presented as a way of making MPs more personally accountable.

• And (forgive me being political) it would be a tough call for Mr Cameron. Most Tories oppose electoral reform but how could they justify ignoring a national referendum?

Unaccountable MPs, an overbearing Executive, an electorate with an appetite for minority parties: the MPs’ expenses saga offers a strong case for electoral reform. In making the hapless Speaker, not the voting system, the target of his ire is Nick Clegg making a strategic error?



  • http://hadleighroberts.co.uk Hadleigh Roberts

    Hi Matthew,

    It’s very convenient that you write “As it tries to arrest its apparent slide into oblivion, Labour needs big ideas” as I have just finished an article in which I assess the main problems for the Party. Admittedly, I think it all came to the boil over the dreadful PPB.

    Sorry to hijack your post (you can throw the comment in the Spam film if you want), but I couldn’t see a contact page and I was hoping I could get some thoughts from someone a little more versed in these matters, there might be a good idea somewhere for all I know. Anyway, the link is here.

    • matthewtaylor

      Hi Hadleigh

      I like the blog. I am developing with my friend Matt Cain http://blog.matthewcain.co.uk/ the idea of a kind of bloggers’ circle. Members would submit a couple of blogs that they particularly want discussed while they would commit to discuss in their blog a post from someone else in the circle at least twice a month. From this we would derive a ‘post of the month’. It’s all a way of boosting readership when we think we’ve got something particularly interesting to say and of raising the public reputation of blogging. If you like the idea you should tell Matt and make sure he puts you on the invite list.



  • http://www.markpack.org.uk/about/ Mark Pack

    I think Nick Clegg’s being doing both – for example, his weekend piece about the need to change our political system as well as his TV interview where he said the Speaker should go.

    It’s no great surprise that the latter got rather more media interest than the former, and talking about both I think it is a good balance between pushing what the party believes whilst also catching the media interest of the moment.

    • matthewtaylor

      Thanks mark

      Of course the very next day Polly T picked up on this angle and the LibDem blogger who had found the correlation between expenses wrong doing and holding a safe seat – which was I thought a classic bit of blog work

      Thanks for the comment

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  • http://livingwithrats.blogspot.com Julian Dobson

    The thing about a referendum is that it needs to include a mechanism that obliges the government to act within a set time. Meanwhile it’s interesting to note the rise of movements like Jury Team that are championing independent MPs. My own view is that we need the equivalent of the tactical voting campaigns – but this time pushing for a hung Parliament.

    I suggested a few reasons on my blog a couple of months ago – I think they’re still relevant: http://livingwithrats.blogspot.com/2009/03/strategic-use-of-tactics.html

    • matthewtaylor

      Thanks julian

      Enjoyed your blog


  • Gavin Lee

    I think Clegg has raised some good points. He has said specifically, that he doesn’t think the speaker is the sole reason MPs are in the mess that they’re in. He has however said, the speaker is part of the problem and considering his pivotal role he has to go. That’s perfectly clear and sound in my opinion.

    • matthewtaylor

      Thanks Gavin. I agree. It is interesting that the electoral reform angle is now gaining ground in the debate

  • ad

    hold a referendum on electoral reform on the date of the next general election

    To be honest, I think that there is something more than a little squalid about a government facing electoral oblivion suddenly deciding that we need a different constitution.

    No one would believe it to be anything but some way of clinging on to power – even if they could not see how it would enable Labour to do that.

    • matthewtaylor

      Fair enough. That’s why it’s intersting to hear it coming from a Conservative. I should say that I have always been an advocate of fair votes.

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  • Wendy Smith

    Many years ago I read a quote from you and it made me so angry at your arrogance that I kept a copy – We have a citizenry which can be caricatured as being increasingly unwilling to be governed but not yet capable of self government. Well these peasants showed you mate didn’t they? Unfortuntely I expect your still around taking tax payers money and treating them with contempt.