Most people are by now I suspect, brexited to distraction by all the machinations going on over the departure of the UK from the EU. However, is it the subject itself that people are fed up with, or is it the behaviour of those Members of Parliament elected at every general election to act as our representatives in the House of Commons?
I suspect even more that it is their behaviour that is leaving the ordinary citizen so tired of it all. News that Prime Minister Theresa May is now facing a vote of no confidence serves only to fuel the belief among ordinary people that what’s going on in the UK parliament is only about the preening ambition of those in it and not what might be good for the country. So let’s take a look at what MPs are supposed to do and, most importantly, what to do about getting rid of the bad ones, of which there are now far too many.
MPs are supposed to act on behalf of those who elect them and as I have said previously, have two primary responsibilities; the first is to represent the views of the majority as well as the minority in their own constituency and the second is to the country as a whole. What this means is that if during the referendum of 2016, to take just one example, Dominic Grieve’s constituency voted to leave the EU, Grieve must abide by that and ensure that he acts in accordance with the wishes of the majority in his constituency. He must also balance that with a responsibility to the UK as a whole – and the majority of those who voted in 2016, voted the same way as those in the area he represents. Which was to leave the EU.
Yet Dominic Grieve’s avowed intention is to stop Brexit. So he is defying the majority vote, who in his constituency, voted to leave. This applies to all those other MPs who are also acting to prevent the UK leaving the EU, unless…their own constituency voted to remain.
However, there now comes into the equation the vote across the UK – the majority of whom voted to leave. So leave we must. Whether Mr Grieve likes it or not.
Since he and a number of other MPs seem to think that they are not responsible to the electorate, then they must be removed. They must be sacked. In any other walk of life, any employee who openly defies his or her employer goes, either by resigning or by being fired. And let’s be frank about it – MPs are employed by the British taxpayer. We pay their salaries, which by the way, is not far short of £80,000 a year. Far, far more than most people get and definitely much more than the ordinary citizen. In return for that generous salary, MPs must carry out the wishes of the majority. If they are not prepared to do so, then they must resign.
Have you ever heard of an MP resigning because they felt their principle beliefs meant that they could no longer carry out the wishes of the people? No, me neither.
Actually that’s not quite true – I have. Not only have I, but right on my own doorstep. My local MP at one time was Mark Reckless, who was a Conservative and elected as one in 2010. A little way down the line he found himself disagreeing so much with David Cameron that he left the Conservatives and joined UKIP. The Tories then rounded on him, calling him a traitor and so on. He was on the end of numerous adverse remarks from his former colleagues but did the honourable thing and resigned as an MP, thus forcing a by-election in which he stood for UKIP. The Conservatives threw everything at the constituency but lost. Mark Reckless became UKIP’s second MP after Douglas Carswell.
Yet Reckless did not have to resign as an MP. He could merely have ‘crossed the floor of the House’ as it is referred to and carried on getting his fat pay packet (as some have in the past). But he didn’t. For that, he deserves considerable credit, particularly since at the next general election, in 2015, he lost to the Conservatives.
So how do we, the people, express our dissatisfaction at the conduct of our MPs? We could write to them…but it is unlikely that we will get the courtesy of a reply from most. We could go and see them, since all MPs are required to hold regular surgeries to listen to the people of their constituencies and tell them to behave – and that’s EVERY single one of them by the way, including the Prime Minister and the Chancellor.
Have you tried lately to see your elected representative? I have. I’m still waiting.
MPs have surrounded themselves by a protective bubble and currently many of them are refusing to emerge from it and engage with their bosses – us. The ordinary citizen, who voted to give them their job (and that salary).
The average Member of Parliament today has never done much else other than be an MP. They have never had a real job and had to live on ordinary wages. Some have, let’s be fair about it, but most of them don’t have a clue about real life for real people. This is why they have become so detached from everybody else and why they seem to believe that they are a cut above the rest, why they are special and why those like Dominic Grieve seem to think that they can defy the wishes of their employers. Again – us, the voter, the ordinary person.
Since none of them are going to resign as MPs, we have to find another way of getting rid of them. How? That’s the problem – we can’t. We are stuck with them until a general election comes along. We’ll come to that in a moment since now might be a good time to look at how a candidate to become an MP gets to become so.
It does vary a little between each political party but put simply, those who run the constituency associations interview those who wish to be MPs and then pick the one they think will do the best job. The problem with this is that these methods remove the ability of the ordinary person in a constituency to have any say in who stands for election. This isn’t going to change any time soon so we are, again, stuck with a flawed system that excludes most people from it.
The only time ordinary people do get to have a say is at a general election. Most will have seen TV shots of a general election count, usually held in a sports centre main hall; rows of tables at which voluntary counters count the ballot papers. The ballot papers have only the date and the constituency name, along with the names of the candidates and their party on – nothing else. Once all the ballot papers are counted, whoever has the most votes, wins. But this system, although it has stood the test of time, is again flawed. What those ballot papers do not have on them is the option for us NOT choose any of the candidates – in other words, a ‘None of them’ option.
This means that if we, the people, do not want any of those candidates to represent us in Parliament, there are only two choices we can make; not vote at all or deliberately spoil the ballot paper. Spoilt papers are separated from the rest and usually there aren’t too many of them so each and every spoilt paper is shown to the candidates and having been to an election count, I have seen this done. So I know it happens.
The other option of not voting, which is what an increasing number of people are now doing, is a bad choice however and it is dangerous. If a majority of people do not vote, then a minority does, which means a minority candidate gets in. The Greek philosopher Plato said: ‘One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors’.
Let me put that another way – bad MPs are elected by people who don’t vote. And that is where we are today.
So what do we do? The obvious, which is at the next general election go and vote – but, instead of using that big, thick, black pencil to put a cross against somebody’s name, write across the paper, ‘None of them’. Your ballot paper then becomes a spoilt paper and must be shown to every candidate. Spoilt papers by the way, are also announced at the end of the count – imagine how that would sound:
‘J. Corbyn (Labour) - 89.
D. Cameron (Conservative) - 37.
Spoilt papers - 28,761.
So if a majority of people in a constituency wrote ‘None of them’ on their paper, then how can the candidate who gets most of the rest of the votes – the minority – legitimately go into Parliament? Well, of course, it is only unspoilt papers that matter so we must do something else as well.
We, as ordinary people, must demand that the option of ‘None’ is included as a choice on election ballot papers and that vote counted. The result of that would be if a majority voted for ‘None’, then none of those candidates can stand again and new candidates found and the election held again.
There three further things we must do as well; the first of which is to demand that before an election, every selected candidate must submit, to each and every household, their written c.v. since they are asking us for a job - what they have done previously, what their politics are, what their beliefs are and how they will conduct themselves if elected.
The second is something that was talked of not too long ago; we must have the ability to sack bad MPs. It is not acceptable any more for an MP to remain as one when so many are so obviously more interested in their own self-promotion and vanity. How this might be done is another matter – an obvious way would be that if enough voters in a constituency were to write a letter of no confidence to the electoral commission, then the commission must have to power to remove that MP, a new candidate is selected and a by-election held.
And the third is this; demand an end to the career politician. As loath as I am to suggest new laws (we have enough already) there is one I would support and that is that every MP must have spent a minimum of twenty years working as ordinary people do. What that means is that nobody under the age of forty-two would be allowed to stand, or be selected to start with. On top of that, the length of time one might spend as an MP must be limited; get to retirement age and retire they must. What this would do is keep the House of Commons fresh and prevent the careerist from simply getting a safe seat and merely taking the money for life.
The behaviour of far too many MPs today is a disgrace and a scandal. We gave them their jobs, we must have the power to sack them. If ordinary people have that, then those ordinary people may start to feel that they have a stake in how the country is run.
© Kevan James 2018.
You can read more of Kevan James’ views on life in the UK today in ‘Comments of a Common Man’, available from Amazon at £9.99
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