Monday, 21 February 2011

A V Referendum II

As a signed-up member of the "Yes to fairer votes " campaign I've received the following Email from one of the organisers:

Your story could be used to help the campaign. It might be placed on our website, used in your local press or used on a leaflet.

If you’d like to get involved then tell us in 100 words why you’re supporting Yes. If you need some help you can tell us:

· What makes you most angry about MPs?
· How do you feel about MPs who have jobs for life?
· How did the expenses scandal make you feel

My true feelings in response to these three questions will not help the campaign at all. Firstly I'm not really angry about MPs: most of them work very hard for long hours doing a rather thankless job. I am, however, exceptionally concerned that too much of their time is spent acting as welfare officers for their constituents and too little examining policy and holding the government to account. Alas the "Yes" campaign seems to want to exacerbate the present situation.

Secondly it doesn't worry me at all the some MPs have a job for life, if that is what a majority of their constituents want. The idea that once a politician has secured a "safe" seat he or she is likely to sit back and do little is, in my experience, far from the truth. I have lived in a safe seat for most of my life in the UK. First it was safe Labour, then safe Conservative, and now safe Labour again, all the result of boundary changes. But both Conservative and Labour incumbents gained reputations as "good constituency MPs" and the last two have both worked hard on my behalf, largely on issues relating to Third World Development, although my affiliation to the Liberal Democrats is well known to them.

Thirdly, on the expenses scandal, "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone." Who has not pushed the rules to the limits of legality what the prevailing culture accepted it and those in charge actually encouraged it. Of course some MPs went beyond the legal or moral limits, but most did not. The expenses scheme was really a method of topping up a basic salary which was seen as inadequate but politicians lacked the courage to fix - a failure of the system rather than of individual MPs.

After each of at least the last three elections there has been public outrage at the unfairness of the result. This outrage has not been confined to Liberal Democrats, Greens and others short changed by the electoral system, but has been pretty universal. Unfortunately the outrage has lasted about ten days or so and then the media carnival has moved on. It is the task of the "Yes" campaign to re-create this outrage for the 5th May. So far I am not very confident of the methods and arguments being used.

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