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


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?

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