There are few “seats for life” in Parliament

 

           Many bloggers to this site are delightfully cynical  about politics, and sceptical about many politicians. That is healthy in a democracy. Nor is it my job to act as shop steward for MPs. I am not a Shop Steward, and my colleagues would not welcome having one. If an MP reaches the point where he thinks it is about him rather than about the people he serves, it is time for him to be moving on to a different job.

          Occasionally, however, I feel I need to tell you more of the mood of the House and the things that do play on MPs’ minds. After all, many of you interested in politics and government want to influence the people who govern you, whilst reserving the right to condemn, criticise and complain. Some of you seem to think that there are lots of safe seats, “seats for life”. These are somehow given out by party High Commands to those whose faces fit. This makes these people immune to commonsense or persuasive lobbying from electors. After all, you argue, these lucky lifers just need to keep the whips or leaders reasonably happy and so they keep their jobs for life.

            That is not generally true in my experience. In the Conservative party candidates are selected by local Committees. It is true they select from a  very long list of approved candidates that Central Office has passed. This list contains a very wide range of characters and viewpoints, as examination of the statements and voting records of current Conservative MPs displays.  It may occasionally be true that the Centre has a view on what type of candidate or even which candidate is to be preferred. They have no power, however, to place such a person in the job in normal circumstances. In many cases any attempt  by Central Office to influence could backfire. Doughty independent minded Selection Committees might see it as a negative that Candidiate X was CCHQ approved.

 

              Most successful Conservative candidiates who make it to the Commons have served a long apprenticeship. They have usually fought a seat they could not win. They have often been Councillors. They may well have done national policy work, and usually now have been active in community programmes of one sort or another. They may well have nursed the constituency that finally elects them for two or three years before the General Election, acting as an unpaid community worker and campaigner.

              20 years ago there were 7 Conservative MPs in the place I know best, my home county of Berkshire. Most pundits then would have said that six of those seven seats were safe seats, “seats for life” for their incumbents. The seventh, Slough, would have been put down as a swing marginal between the Conservatives and Labour. The caricature of Berkshire then, the royal county, was a pure blue home counties area. People would joke that you could put a sheep up and as long as it had a blue rosette it would be elected. So what happened next?

            Conservatives held all seven seats in the 1992 General Election. One elected a new MP to replace someone who willingly retired. Tragically that new MP died prematurely during the Parliament. The Lib Dems took the seat in the by-election which followed. They held the seat in the 1997 and 2001 elections, only to lose it in 2005 to the Conservatives.

            The MPs for Reading East and Reading West had majorities of 16217 and 16753 at the 1987 election. They won easily in 1992. Both decided to retire in 1997. The MP for Reading East would I think have liked to carry on, but was concerned about  his  ability to win the seat. Both seats were lost to Labour. The Conservatives recaptured Reading East in 2005, two elections later, and recaptured Reading West only in 2010, three elections later.

               Berkshire East (Bracknell) and Windsor remained in Conservative hands. Their incumbent MPs both, however, resigned when they lost the confidence of their Conservative Associations over how they had handled their expenses. The Associations chose new candidates who were able to win in the Conservative cause. 

              Slough went Labour in 1997 and remained Labour, even in 2010, confounding ideas that it was a swing seat.

               So out of the six “seats for life” three saw two changes in  the MP and party thanks to the wishes of electors  in elections, and two saw changes in MP when the winning party chose a new candidate, worrying that the incumbent MP might have lost the electors’ confidence as well as the local party’s.

             Labour has had similar experiences with its so called “seats for life”. In the 1970s pundits said the arc of seats in south London were rock solid safe Labour seats. Yet Labour lost Bermondsey in a by-election in 1982, and it has stayed Lib Dem ever since.

             Today in Parliament this type of background generates great uncertainties in many MPs. Whilst Lib Dems stay cheerful in public as they have to do, they would not be human without pausing to look at the electoral consequences of their current poll ratings. Lib Dems will be doing private calculations of how far they need to get their vote to rise to save a significant number of their seats.

       The boundary review is abolishing 50 seats in total. It is a preoccupation of many MPs. Many more seats have changed boundaries that make minor or major differences to how winnable those seats are for their current incumbents. As 31 seats are taken away from England, 10 from Wales, 7 from Scotland and 2 from Northern Ireland, there is jostling for position as MPs seek to gain the favourable attention of the selection committees for the new seats.

            All this creates a jittery Parliament. It certainly makes MPs accountable. The average MP does the job for 10 years or two Parliaments. MPs often do not do what you would like them to do, but they are more conscious than most that they each have around 75,000 bosses and they live in the goldfishbowl of public accountability. They cannot please all 75,000, as electors have such differing views and problems.

           Every MP who knows the job well  knows he or she could be  just one foolish statement or action away from losing it. Maybe some of you remember Howard Flight. He had his “seat for life” taken away for saying at the start of  a General Election that if an incoming Conservative government could find more economies it would spend less. He was particularly unlucky and unwise with his timing. It does remind you how slender is the line between “safe” seat and political oblivion.

 

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87 Comments

  1. Mick Anderson
    Posted January 13, 2012 at 7:03 am | Permalink

    When there is only a single opportunity to chose an MP every five years, from a shortlist of perhaps three or four serious contenders, we don’t really have a significant choice.

    There have only been five MPs for this area since 1918 (there was a boundary/name change in 1983), and all have represented the Conservative Party.

    The MP with his name against the area at the moment is on the Ministerial payroll. He is “too busy running the Country” (his words to me, while in opposition) to live in a constituency that is a 50 minute train ride from Westminster, and many around here will tell you that the neglect shows.

    Every MP who knows the job well knows he or she could be just one foolish statement or action away from losing it

    So, this Minister apparently has no original thoughts of his own, effectively having given custody of his vote to his boss. Safety first, Chaps!

  2. lifelogic
    Posted January 13, 2012 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    The problem still remains that MPs are more far more reliant on the partly than the electorate to retain their positions, so this is naturally where their loyalties lie. Anyway the electorates so often do not know what is in practice is actually good for them anyway and vote for measure that actually harm the economy, waste money and destroy jobs (usually encouraged by the BBC so to do).

    I would certainly not want to be an MP – never being able to say, robustly, what I actually thought on any given issue lest I upset some section or other. It must be sole destroying.

    • lifelogic
      Posted January 13, 2012 at 8:05 am | Permalink

      Did for example Justine Greening on Questiontime last night, when asked if she could not think of anything better to invest £35 billion on than getting people to Birmingham a few minutes faster – did she really say what she honestly thought?

      She is trained as an accountant and does not seem that daft to me surely she cannot really think it is the best use of taxpayers money, can she?

      Reply: The railway was a collective decision of the Cabinet, but as the lead Minister I assume she is broadly happy with going ahead. Why would she propose it to cabinet in the first place if she did not want it? Surely she would have delayed it or found reasons why there were problems with the inheritance.

      • Disaffected
        Posted January 13, 2012 at 9:43 am | Permalink

        She is a career person, so she did what she was told. Cameron only has Europhile Tory yes people in government. As for your comment about long served apprenticeships, who? Cameron, Osborne, Clegg. Straight from University as SPaDs, very short one time jobs then safe seats were found. How many MPs are found safe seats John? Harmon’s husband parachuted into a job against her own equality rules? How many MPs employ relatives, particularly spouses? John, I normally agree with most of what you write, but this piece is far fetched rubbish.

        Clegg Sneaked out the Right to Recall Bill when the EU fiasco was happening two weeks ago. it is not worth the paper it is written on. Today we learn Gove will get rid of rubbish teachers, last week it was CEO pay. When is Cameron and Clegg going to sort out Parliament as they both promised to do. Clegg was going to shut the gates of Westminster until the job was done. Clegg’s party is the worse for behaviour issues at the moment. Politicians cannot be taken seriously or have any moral authority to act until they clean up the pervasive corruption and poor standards at Westminster.

        Reply: Mr Cameron fought Stafford and lost in 1997 as his apprenticeship. Mr Clegg was an MEP before getting his Westminster seat.

        • Disaffected
          Posted January 13, 2012 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

          Poor repost. Hardly long serving apprenticeships as you state.

      • Alan Wheatley
        Posted January 13, 2012 at 9:44 am | Permalink

        Re reply:

        Perhaps ministers inheriting a policy with which they are, shall we say “uncomfortable”, should take a leaf out of the Gordon Brown book of political manoeuvring. In this case the correct announcement would be that the minister declares total belief and commitment to the government’s stated policy on HS2, but for the project to proceed it must first pass five critical tests so as to ensure the timing is in the national interest.

      • alan jutson
        Posted January 13, 2012 at 10:14 am | Permalink

        Lifelogic

        The performance of many MPs on Question Time just trotting out the Party line, is why I do not bother to view it (unless JR, Farage or somebody simiar is on), so did not see this one.

        • lifelogic
          Posted January 13, 2012 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

          I still find Questiontime rather amusing, watching politicians trying to defend the indefensible and answering questions never asked. But it can indeed be boring sometimes with too many politicians on and perhaps only a single person who can say what they actually think. So often you know the standard rubbish lines they will trot out before they even open their mouths. Their job and party so often prevents them saying anything sensible or often even remotely true.

          Indeed top business people too cannot not really say on national TV what they really think. That employment legislation and the minimum wage and equality legislation absurd and counter productive and health and safely hugely over the top and often counter productive too – but most must do think it.

          It is also rather spoiled by the BBC with it relentless PC pro EU lefty, arty, agenda and the bizarre “equality” driven selection of contributors. The endless list of Billy Brag, Polly Toynbee and Jo Brand types who appear.

          • Bazman
            Posted January 14, 2012 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

            Many would still argue that child labour is acceptable as this gives the family an income and lowers costs to business which can be passed onto customers of which many are child labourers.
            What you are saying is that there should be minimum wage, employment legislation and health and safety and this will somehow improve the lives of the majority of the population that has to work for a living creating a better working environment higher wages and more jobs, especially for woman? Politicians want to say this, but are somehow afraid to, because of the publics inability to see that this is the truth and would against any such proposals as they just want an easy life? The ideas are pure fantasy. They know exactly where this regressive way of thinking would take them and punish any politician accordingly for putting forward ideas with consequences they would not have to live under.

        • Disaffected
          Posted January 13, 2012 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

          Agreed. BBC propaganda unit.

      • Winston Smith
        Posted January 13, 2012 at 10:59 am | Permalink

        She’s been in the job for barely a couple of months. She has constituency work and Christmas. She can only have skimmed the detail provided by the same civil servants who came up with the EU derived plan. She represents a marginal constituency in a part of London living in fear of Heathrow expansion. She is ambitious, selected by a Cameron clique looking to appear to promote women. Her performance is very unconvincing. He spiel was ‘fact-checked’ and shown to be full of holes and mistruths. She’s just another traveller in the political elite’s ship, at risk of being cast adrift if she does not do as told. Just as you were, Mr Redwood.

        • lifelogic
          Posted January 13, 2012 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

          Unlikely Justine Greening will go for the hugely sensible investment & cost effective – like two new runways one Gatwick one Heathrow and a high speed 15 minute train link round the M25.

        • zorro
          Posted January 13, 2012 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

          She didn’t appear very convincing (convinced?) on QT last night, and my spidey sense is not that positive towards her….

          zorro

      • lifelogic
        Posted January 13, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

        I would not want Justine Greening anywhere near the investment planning departments of any company I had an interest in – if she really thinks this is a good thing to do with £35 Billion. It almost makes Huhne’s absurd wind farms look like a good “investment” by comparison.

      • Alan Wheatley
        Posted January 13, 2012 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

        Re reply:

        Further to my post above, this one not toung-in-cheek. A bit off topic, but hopefully allowed as the intention is to give a view on life as a minister, and hence the impact on re-electability.

        I take it that Justine Greening has no particular expertise nor specialist knowledge on the issues being considered as part of the the wide ranging review of HS2 that concluded recently. She would, therefore, be dependent on the papers put before her by officials. There are plenty of them, and you can read them for yourselves by visiting the DfT website.

        Judging by the few I have read they take the form as follows. We consultants have been asked by DfT to look at the doubts raised about widgets during the consultation. We have looked again at the data and the methods, and our findings, as can be seen in the graph, is that the widgets are fine. So no spanner in the works here then!

        So the minister, confronted with a despatch box full of good news, can do nothing other than go along with it. You can hardly expect her to say STOP when everyone is telling here it’s a GO.

        Of course, in the ideal world, she would take the time to read up the issues herself, perhaps speak personally to representatives from the pressure groups. But as the recent incumbent picking up somebody else’s project and timescale, that was hardly likely to be a possibility.

        One thing that she might have picked up on was that the consultants’ reports for the DfT are hardly independent (being commissioned by a vested interest) and certainly not peer-reviwed. It will be interesting to see what comes from the anti-HS2 lobby in the coming weeks when they have had a chance to examine the government documents in support of their decision to go ahead. This may well cast doubt of the viability of widgets.

        The problem is always that it is very hard to change a decision once made. If Ms Greening does start to have doubts as she learns more about HS2 over the coming months she is forever saddled with the decision she has just taken. Without some EVENT to change the ground rules I do not see how GO will become STOP.

        Ah the life of a minister – do you want it?

        Reply: A Minister has access to official advice, which as you describe may all come from one angle or prejudice. The Minister also has the right to commission or seek other advice, and can often receive lots of free advice from a different angle. The Minister is also a politician who will soon have a full in box and many opportunities to meet and visit those who hold differing views. The Minister then has to judge – on a project like this is it go, stop, or change? She could always have delayed and asked for more work to be done, or sought to change some of the obvious problems with the scheme – high cost, long delays in delivery etc. A Minister is often the layman judging the conflicting professional advice, and sometimes injecting commonsense where professionals have got carried away. Some times Ministers also have professional skills and training which may help, but then the Minister has to be careful to remain balanced and to see the bigger picture.

        • BobE
          Posted January 13, 2012 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

          By spraying money about in ‘future’ contracts, that will last over 20 years then MPs and seniors can secure directorships and consultanciers after they loose their place in the next election. Its a money go round to secure the future for many people.
          PFI was similar.

        • Rebecca Hanson
          Posted January 13, 2012 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

          There are many excellent integrated support systems minsters can use to help them a balance of intelligent views which represent all areas affected by the issue under consideration.

          Wesminster Forums (http://www.westminsterforumprojects.co.uk/), for example, are well run and have expert chairs who work to identify emerging themes and issues so that they can be thorough analysed by the participants.

          I notice there’s an HS2 consultation pencilled in for Q2 this year – no date yet suggests it’s a rushed addition. Perhaps worth attending for those who wish to explore the economic impact in width and depth and contribute to the debate http://www.westminsterforumprojects.co.uk/forums/index.php?fid=westminster_energy_environment_and_transport_forum

          It would be nice to see you at that John. In the education forums this government only sends people who haven’t sufficient experience to understand the discussion.

        • ian wragg
          Posted January 13, 2012 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

          John,
          Why does none of you ever admit that HS2 is an EU project.
          I thought you were capable of original thinking but you seem completely blinkered by EU directives and proposals.
          You still spout the mantra of changing the EU from within the Tory party when you must know this is a load of bull.

          reply: Because I think the UK can choose whether to have an HS2 or not.

        • zorro
          Posted January 13, 2012 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

          ‘Ah the life of a minister – do you want it?’……….Perhaps never say never for John?

          zorro

      • APL
        Posted January 13, 2012 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

        JR: “The railway was a collective decision of the Cabinet … ”

        Now kindly tell us, the European Union has nothing to do with the new rail link. It’s all a British decision and there is no European component to the decision at all.

        JR: “Why would she propose it to cabinet in the first place if she did not want it?”

        For Gods Sake! Because her masters in Brussels have instructed her to do so.

        Reply: Then show me the instruction or law that requires the UK to do it. If it is a requirement why then has there been so much discussion here about whether to do it. As you know, where the EU bosses us I expose it and oppose it. This is not one of those cases.

        • APL
          Posted January 14, 2012 at 10:42 am | Permalink

          JR: “Then show me the instruction or law that requires the UK to do it.”

          http://ec.europa.eu/ten/index_en.html

          Under the terms of Chapter XV of the Treaty (Articles 154, 155 and 156), the European Union must aim to promote the development of Trans -European Networks as a key element for the creation of the Internal Market and the reinforcement of Economic and Social Cohesion. This development includes the interconnection and interoperability of national networks as well as access to such networks.

          Coupled with the compulsory component of Council Directive 96/48/EC.

          http://www.google.co.uk/#hl=en&cp=28&gs_id=7&xhr=t&q=council+directive+96+48+ec+of+23+july+1996&pf=p&sclient=psy-ab&site=&source=hp&pbx=1&oq=+Council+Directive+96/48/EC.&aq=0vC&aqi=g-vC1&aql=&gs_sm=&gs_upl=&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.,cf.osb&fp=d8425c582b50359b&biw=1278&bih=849

          Reply: Yes, I am, aware of that, but it does not require us to build HS2 – that is a UK wish and decision.

          • APL
            Posted January 14, 2012 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

            JR: “to build HS2 – that is a UK wish and decision.”

            Pah! The most EUrophile Tory Prime minister (who in the face of overriding evidence to the contrary you tried to maintain was a EUrosceptic ) since the last Europhile Tory Prime minister. And you think it is credible to suggest this decision was taken in a vacuum?

            1. We can’t afford it.
            2. The traffic doesn’t warrant it.
            3. We are heading into a recession and passenger traffic will fall off a cliff.

            But it does answer my question, ‘Why if we are going to build the wretched project, do we not build it using 21st century technology – Magnetic levitated carriages?’

            From the first link: “This development includes the interconnection and interoperability of national networks as well as access to such networks.”

            MagLev carriages can’t run on the conventional 18th Century technology we are compelled to use.

            Reply: I put the question of why not Maglev to the CEO of the project. She replied that they do want to be able to use the new track for existing trains if necessary. Remember this is not going to be built anytime soon – first construciton contracts 2017 if all goes as planned. Clearly there is no rushing need to comply with your fictitious EU demands.

          • APL
            Posted January 15, 2012 at 9:56 am | Permalink

            JR: “She replied that they do want to be able to use the new track for existing trains if necessary.”

            From the horses mouth. How we know the HS2 is a EU project? They want interoperability on the Brand Spanking New Trans European Network.

            This is supposedly going to be a ‘High Speed Line’, the technical specifications of the rolling stock will be significantly more stringent, in order to run safely at it’s stated capability – rolling stock from other lines will not be safe to run at the maximum speed on the London to Birmingham HS2 line.

            So we either have an admission that the line will run at speeds significantly below those stated as its raison d’etre, because they will be mixing lower specification rolling stock – in which case, WHAT IS THE POINT??

            Or, when she says ‘existing trains’ she means those trains that run on the Trans European Network.

            In either case we are AGAIN being subjected to a confidence trick and fraud.

            I suggest you arrange to get the CEO of the project sacked and replaced by someone with vision, someone who wants to build a rail link for the 21 century, a world leader using 21 century technology not 18th century technology.

            By the way, mag lev – it’d be GREEN, it’d be a lot quieter than conventional diesel electric locomotion. And above all it would be faster!

            But here too you see what happens when a project is put together by a (EU) committee. They are building something designed 200 years ago.

            By the way, I’m against the project for the reasons I have already stated. But if we have to build it, build something exciting, something technologically advanced.

    • zorro
      Posted January 13, 2012 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

      Is that really the case though? MPs are not forced to toe the government line and quite a few rebel against it. Agreed, those who want advancement tend to be more ‘co-operative’, but maybe those who speak their mind have more job satisfaction from that than rather being unthinking lobby fodder.

      zorro

  3. Robert K
    Posted January 13, 2012 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    Thank you for this interesting analysis. It is difficult for outsiders of the Westminster village to get a real sense of the atmosphere there.
    The impression I get, perhaps wrongly in light of what you have written here, is that most MPs are cannon fodder for the whips on most of the big issues of the day. One of the reasons that your diary is essential daily reading is that it tackles the big issues head on and has the confidence and authority to ask difficult questions of the government. It is hard to imagine you be used as cannon fodder. Perhaps my own (Conservative) MP has an equally independent streak of mind, but it you would not think so from reading the sparse comments on his website, which on the EU referendum, for example, simply toe the party line.
    The politicians for whom I hold the greatest respect are those for whom politics is a means to articulate and defend a political view, rather than a process of personal advancement. In this context, I highlight Dan Hannan, who in campaigning for the UK to leave the EU is actively seeking to have his job removed.
    The political process would become a great deal more responsive if every MP was to blog at least weekly on the issues of the moment.

  4. Bill
    Posted January 13, 2012 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    Thank you John. I think that needed to be said.

    I suspect that the uncertainty of the job is what led to the expenses scandal or the desire to ensure that MPs pensions are pitched at the upper level of reasonable. If an MP loses a seat, what is he or she qualified to do next?

    Do you know why 50 seats are being axed?

    Reply: To cut the costs of politics. The Conservatives in opposition felt that as they needed to cut the costs of Whitehall they needed to show they would start with Westminster.

    • Deborah
      Posted January 13, 2012 at 9:40 am | Permalink

      What a strange assumption. I would have thought it was the certainty of the job that led to the expenses scandal and the unreasonably high gold-plated pensions. Many MPs think they are fire-proof .

      • Bill
        Posted January 13, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

        I understand that Bob Mellish, an old Labour whip, agreed that MPs salaries be kept ‘low’ on the understanding they could claim generous allowances. In other words, MPs thought they had a kind of moral right to claim money out of the public purse because they were really worth a lot more than they were actually paid.

        If you think our MPs have high pensions, just look at what the Euro MPs get!

        • APL
          Posted January 13, 2012 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

          Bill: ” MPs thought they had a kind of moral right to claim money out of the public purse because they were really worth a lot more than they were actually paid.”

          A moral right to behave in an immoral manner. That might be worth a try in a court of law, NOT!

          ‘What a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!’

          And let us judge them by results. The UK teetering on the brink of Bankruptcy. Actually we are bankrupt but the markets are having much more fun with the little tykes in the Euro Zone at the moment.

    • BobE
      Posted January 13, 2012 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

      Its what will happen if more and more power goes to Brussels. Turkeys that vote for Christmas.

  5. Tim
    Posted January 13, 2012 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    The Flight example rather negates your argument. He lost his seat because he upset the ruling executive/ whip, not his constituents. It underlines the point that MPs in safe seats owe loyalty to the party not their electors.
    If we had primaries and the right to recall, loyalty would shift back to the people MPs are meant to represent. Our MPs have become Europeanised. They believe they are our leaders, not our representives.
    Party loyalty simply trumps constituent loyalty every time and the safer your seat the stronger the bond becomes to the party. Look at the whips, generally safe seaters whose job it is to pressure MPs to vote against their will. What kind of representation can the whips count on? Pretty much nil bar the a bit of sympathetic lip service at the surgery.

  6. Mike Stallard
    Posted January 13, 2012 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    “Some of you seem to think that there are lots of safe seats, “seats for life”. These are somehow given out by party High Commands to those whose faces fit.”
    You mean like the European Parliament?

    Thank you for a very interesting expose of what it actually feels like to be an MP. Out here way past Watford, we have honestly got no idea! And I am sure that I speak for a lot of people when I say that thanks to people like yourself, we are much better informed.

    And slightly less cynical perhaps????????

    • Martyn
      Posted January 13, 2012 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

      It is a good and informative post, John, but my cynicism remains firmly rooted in place.
      If the government wishes to downsize Parliament, could it not start with shedding Ministers and their attendant civil service hangers 0n? There seems to be a Minister now for absolutely every subject under the sun, other than, perhaps, being responsible for tracking UK UFO activity.

  7. Rebecca Hanson
    Posted January 13, 2012 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    “They have often been Councillors. They may well have done national policy work, and usually now have been active in community programmes of one sort or another.”

    The current vandalism of education would not be possible if candidates were required to have a wide variety of substantial life experience and, in a majority of cases, to have commanded the respect of their peers in senior roles in society.

    If the Conservative party doesn’t want the ‘jobs for life’ label they shouldn’t select young people with no life experience who run rampant over policy through the naivity and hubris they couldn’t/wouldn’t have had they had a successful life before politics. People who enter parliament in their 50s with tremendous credibility and the respect of the people they have managed do not get that label. They are also able to manage highly qualified and able civil servants instead of needing to clear them out and replace them with inexperienced people who tell them what they want to hear.

    • Rebecca Hanson
      Posted January 13, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

      We were saying a final, far too premature, farewell to a great teacher yesterday. Facebook is awash with tributes today as teachers post about the fittingly beautiful service and the ex-students we’ve linked to are becoming aware.

      We sat at the wake pondering the free school meals to Oxbridge issue – not because it’s fashionable but because we always talk about it when we meet. We still think most Oxbridge interviewers don’t see the vast distance between those state school kids with a professional parent and who have been supported and developed at home and those who’s haven’t.

      When your mum’s doing minimum wage work and dad’s not around and you’re a carer it’s not surprising you’re not the same kind of applicant as a child who’s had bucket loads of extra-curricular activities and opportunities to build their confidence. As ever we’re discussing what we can do help those students.

      In essence we need to be able to retain those teachers who our brightest kids look up to and use to help them chart their course. But these teachers are the ones who struggle to live with the endless top down interventions and hoop jumping.

      The group of teachers chatting were all nurtured in a top LA in the days before the 1992 cultural revolution – when education believed in promoting people who were personally credible and could command the respect of communities and worked hard to prevent those with young and naive ideas gaining power and wreaking hell and havoc – no matter how angrily they shouted about the injustice of their thwarted ambition.

      The head under which we had all thrived was there. He was one of the old school of secondary heads who commanded respect not through diction or rhetoric but through saying less rather than more and through saying things which were intelligent and right for our students. I remember his retirement speech where he spoke about his headship being like trying to drive a carriage being pulled by a large team of unbroken (middle management) stallions and how he never had to pull – he just had to try and steer away from disaster.

      With so many decades of memory between us we could look back at the waves of ignorant policy and the recoveries. It seems extra poignant that the very worst has come when so many foundations for proper progress were in place and wider conditions such as technological development were so clement.

      What can we do? I don’t know.
      Here are some lyrics she had played as we walked out of the crem.

      Those who feel the breath of sadness
      Sit down next to me
      Those who find they’re touched by madness
      Sit down next to me
      Those who find themselves ridiculous
      Sit down next to me
      Sit down, sit down, sit down, sit down, down
      In sympathy

      with personal love and thanks to ST 23-8-55 to 4-1-12 RIP.

    • nicol sinclair
      Posted January 13, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

      Dear Ms Hanson,

      I couldn’t agree more with your offerings. Had I been there bore you, my comments might have been identical.

      • Mike Stallard
        Posted January 13, 2012 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

        I am genuinely glad you had the privilege of working with such a man.

        Has anyone else noticed the (changing-ed) of Michael Gove? He has gone from a sharp, thrusting little journo into a rather tubby, complacent politician, no longer interested in Free Schools and real, free Academies, but now dealing with normal things like Child Benefits and so on. His (castrated) Academies where the head chooses her own salary and is allowed just that extra spoonful of sugar in her coffee if she asks nicely, are an insult to the original idea of genuinely free schools.
        Corruptio optimi pessimum as we old teachers agree…….

        • Rebecca Hanson
          Posted January 13, 2012 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

          Thanks for you comments Nicol and Mike.

          On the whole I’d rather keep politicians than change them because they learn so much on the job. But let’s not allow them to stand for election until they really have something to offer rather than they they just think they do, or at least they’ve acquired enough wisdom to have some respect for the insights and wisdom of those who have spend their lives working in the area of life over which they have duty of care.

        • forthurst
          Posted January 13, 2012 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

          Corruption, is actually an (word left out-ed) attribute, one of weakness rather than manliness, for which having ‘special friends’, particlularly in evincing foreign policy is conducive, but not obligatory.

          Whatever else, the English must be prevented from having good free schools, otherwise they might be tempted to have more children; that as we know is against the policies of all three political parties that can’t wait to reside in a fully vibrant society out of which they themselves will of course, through wealth, be able to opt.

  8. electro-kevin
    Posted January 13, 2012 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    That is a very interesting insight. I wonder why so many pro EU candidates are offered by the Conservatives though. I must confess to being a bit suspicious.

    I have always valued our MPs and understood the commitment and levels of unpaid work most have been expected to undertake on the path to selection. It also takes very special qualities indeed to go through a career in the public eye without dropping a job-demolishing clanger.

    I wouldn’t last two minutes. In fact I wouldn’t be any good to my local party for anything but making the tea in the farthest backroom !

  9. Paul H
    Posted January 13, 2012 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    I’m surprised to see you state how much power the local associations have. It seems they can’t avoid an incumbent being ousted by, for example, the imposition of an AWS (which are, incidentally, both the start of a very slippery slope and – in my humble opinion – demeaning to women). This could easily be used to dislodge an “inconvenient” MP.

  10. witteringwitney
    Posted January 13, 2012 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    Candidates may get selected by local committees, unfortunately the list from which they can select is not one of their choice.

    You write ” If an MP reaches the point where he thinks it is about him rather than about the people he serves, it is time for him to be moving on to a different job.” It would seem that there are quite a few who do believe it is about them – one that immediately springs to mind is Louise Mensch.

    You also write ” these lucky lifers just need to keep the whips or leaders reasonably happy ” and there seems to be quite a few of those too – one only has to look at voting records.

    How many MPs are there who have publicly said what Philip Davies has, namely that he is elected to represent his constituents in Westminster, rather than Westminster in his constituency? All too often the impression is given of the latter, rather than the former.

    You appear to wonder why so many of us are delightfully cynical about politics, and sceptical about many politicians. In response all I can say is, paraphrasing a well known saying – physicians, heal thyselves.

    • witteringwitney
      Posted January 13, 2012 at 10:14 am | Permalink

      Perhaps I may be permitted to add a further comment – that is that Secs of State, Ministers and PPs cannot clearly represent their constituents as they have to ‘toe the government line’, due to your leader’s remarks to me during a surgery visit that where local policy conflicts with national policy then the latter triumphs, or where local needs conflict again national policy triumphs.

      That is hardly democracy in action. Our present system of representative democracy is a sham and needs to be changed to direct democracy – but of course the ‘Westminster Cabal’ would never agree to that, or even discuss the pros and cons of that system, when to so do would open another Pandoras Box – one that would surely result in MPs losing their power, power that has over time been usurped from the people.

      All political parties talk about devolution of power and what is practiced is anything but – control still remains at the centre. Just what is it that makes politicians believe that they and only they should decide our nation’s future and ultimately our lives and how we live them?

  11. English Pensioner
    Posted January 13, 2012 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    Which is why I believe that all MPs should have the ability to do a “proper job”, and definitely one outside politics.
    They wouldn’t be quite to worried about the finances of not getting re-elected which might make them somewhat more independent in their views.
    For the same reasons, I am opposed to politicians who are too young – you never know whether they advocate a policy because it is good for the country, or good for their future career

  12. oldtimer
    Posted January 13, 2012 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    An interesting post on the facts of an MPs political life. This rings true to me.

    I live in the Beaconsfield constituency, the seat now held by Dominic Grieve QC MP, the Attorney General. Beaconsfield is and, I expect, will continue to be one of the safest Conservative seats in the country. However it is not necessarily safe for the incumbent as Mr Grieve`s predecessor discovered; he was a casualty of a cash for questions scandal despite the efforts of some in the local association to keep him as MP. As I recall the majority of the members of the local association wanted him out, and out he went. There was a selection process and finally a meeting to choose a new candidate from a short list of four. It is the only selection meeting I ever attended – along with a few hundred others (a school hall was packed out). Mr Grieve was clearly the stand out candidate and was selected – somewhat to his surprise I suspect. The events prior to his selection did, I believe, cost the local Conservative party a lot of members.

    Reply And Mr Grieve, a good MP, has shown independence of views and would not have been the likely preference of the High Command at the time.

  13. Nick
    Posted January 13, 2012 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    That is not generally true in my experience. In the Conservative party candidates are selected by local Committees.

    ==========

    Local committee or central committee, it doesn’t matter. Given that any turkey who was the conservative candidate in a safe seat is going to be elected, bar an act of gross indecency with a couple of sheep on hustings night, caught on film, [and even then there is a chance they are still elected], it is still a handful of people getting to choose the next MP. It’s who ever is on those committees.

    That is why we need open primaries. You don’t get to control any more than any one else.

    Secondly, with two fiddling expenses, we need the right of recall. Otherwise to get rid of a fiddler, we have to vote against our interests, just to get them out. e.g. Vote Labour.

    Waiting 5 years to get rid of them isn’t acceptable either.

    • Deborah
      Posted January 13, 2012 at 9:55 am | Permalink

      “I agree with Nick!
      In my area there is a nice arangement rather similar to the Eurovision song contest. It seems that, no matter how bad the performances are, the MP will always support the local Council and the local Council will always support the MP.
      Of course the local Association (and thus the selection committee) is run by those same councillors…..very cosy.
      The electorate is given Hobson’s choice.

      We need open primaries.”

      • A.Sedgwick
        Posted January 13, 2012 at 11:20 am | Permalink

        I agree to the need for primaries.

        The last figure I saw for Conservative Party Membership was 177,000 so a rough calculation gives each constituency a membership of 300, probably more where there is a Conservative MP and in Southern England. So if each association has the power JR suggests it is concentrated in very few hands and clearly is just as undemocratic as the parachuting in of candidates.

        • Winston Smith
          Posted January 13, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

          That figure was from nearly 2 years ago. It was 300,000 in 2005. Central Office are keeping the latest figures to themselves. I guess it could be heading towards 100,00. Do you have any figures, Mr Redwood?

          Reqply No I do not.

    • Acorn
      Posted January 13, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

      Top-2-Primary, Washington (and others now) style. At first when they tell you that the candidate chooses the party he/she prefer, and, not the other way around, you think how can that work? http://www.sos.wa.gov/elections/faqcandidates.aspx

      Colonic irrigation for Westminster, I’ll say.

  14. Alan
    Posted January 13, 2012 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    I don’t think Mr Redwood has made his case well. From the examples he has selected a high proportion of MPs or would be MPs are chosen or dismissed by local committees which most of the electors know nothing about and cannot influence. One example he gives is of an MP who was dismissed by the central party leadership and then, as I understand it, given a “safe seat for life” in the House of Lords on the recommendation of a new leader. These are not good examples of democracy.

    I am not cynical about politics. I think many people in politics are genuinely trying to do their best, as they see it, for the country, but it does seem to me we have very large deficiencies in our system of democracy and I regret that they are not being addressed. The existence of an unelected House of Lords is the most glaring example, but the House of Commons is also at fault in not adequately representing the range of views held in the electorate.

  15. javelin
    Posted January 13, 2012 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    Given MPs salaries are not hugely generous – unless you’re the PM – then the real risk is “promotional risk” and not “electorial risk” – fortunately a few MPs, like yourself can rise above this.

    I suspect your post was a shot across the bows to the Cabinet saying that their policies reduce promotional risk at the cost of raising electorial risk.

    Risk (in the financial sphere) is a lot like energy in a closed physical system – it can mutate but is is conserved. Unlike physics both financial and political risks are not closed systems to new newgative or positive risk can be introduced.

    So are you saying the Conservatives need to either change tack or pull a rabbit out the hat?

    Cynical enough for you.

    Reply: I say what I mean. I have made plenty of comments in other posts about changes of policy I wish to see to improve the state of the nation and to improve the popularity of the government. This post says what it says.

  16. Alan Wheatley
    Posted January 13, 2012 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    I lived in Orpington when the Conservatives lost that safe seat to the Liberals. I was too young to be following politics, but it was apparent to everyone that something sensational had happened. It seems that the long standing Conservative member had retired and the prospective new member thought that all he had to do was turn up wearing a blue rosette to win. The electorate preferred someone else, who turned out to be rather a good chap, and it took the Conservatives a long time before they won that seat again.

  17. Peter van Leeuwen
    Posted January 13, 2012 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    Where are the female contenders to unseat the grey men of UK politics? With 21% women, the UK parliament compares badly with the German Bundestag, 33%, the Dutch parliament, 42%, Sweden, 46%, and , of course, the European Parliament, 35%.

    • Winston Smith
      Posted January 13, 2012 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

      Depends if you believe in best person for the job or prefer adherence to marxist equality ideology. I guess you are more interested in appearance, than action.

      • Peter van Leeuwen
        Posted January 13, 2012 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

        @Winston Smith: As you’re now suggesting that women in Britain are somehow unequal to men, equal chances only to be achieved by ideology, like in marxist Germany, marxist Holland, and marxist Sweden, please forgive me smiling at your reaction.

        • Christopher Ekstrom
          Posted January 13, 2012 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

          Mrs. Thatcher would have none of the hand wringing or Marxist fiddling to please PC identity politics: God Bless her! Perhaps with the fall of the UK we have other more pressing issues.

        • Winston Smith
          Posted January 13, 2012 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

          Depends on your definition of equality; equality of opportunity or equality of outcome? We have equality of opportuity. Ever heard of our greatest PM in post war history? Any pragmatist can tell you there are a multitude of reasons why life does not produce a Marxist’s utopian equality of outcome. If you are suggesting there are barriers for potential female MPs, what are they? All European nations with high female MP % have used discrimmiation to achieve this, bar Finland. EU nations are not as equal as you suggest. For example, in France 0.4% of MPs are from ethnic minorities, compared to 13% of the general population. We have different cultures, which is why we don’t cede to marxist discrimmination, quite as easily as our friends across the Channel, which is why your comrades try to introduce it by stealth.

          Do you believe in ‘the best person for the job’ or not?

          • Winston Smith
            Posted January 13, 2012 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

            Of course, the socialists want to see more minority groups and women in parliaments, but only those who share their politics. Hence, the disgraceful treatment of Ayaan Hirsi Ali by the Dutch media and politicians.

          • Peter van Leeuwen
            Posted January 13, 2012 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

            @Winston Smith: If you’d just read a bit carefully, I called on women to unseat the grey men of UK politics. You bring in perceived equality and perceived marxism (the Netherlands has never been marzist). Your parliament is just a bit old-fashioned, and maybe the “seats for life” have something to do with this? As an longtime admirer of Ayaan Hirsi Ali myself I don’t think you’re particular well informed about etnic and racial issues in the Netherlands. Ayaan was a conservative liberal when she was disgracefully treated by Dutch politicians (a rightwing minister in particular).

        • Deborah
          Posted January 13, 2012 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

          Perhaps women, although equally competent, do not like the terms and conditions?

  18. Richard
    Posted January 13, 2012 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    A further uncertainty for MP’s to cope with is the reduced tribal party loyalty of modern voters.
    In the past many people decided on their political alliegences at an early age and kept loyally to them all their lives, but this is much rarer today.
    Perhaps this is why membership levels for Labour LibDems and Conservatives are so greatly reduced.

    Solihull used to be one of the safest Conservative seats but with boundary alterations and several new housing estates, leading to a much larger and younger population, there was a swing away from the Conservatives and Solihull now has a Liberal MP. Another similar example is Edgbaston which after decades as a safe Conservative seat now has a Labour MP.
    If you has predicted these changes in loyalties back in the seventies and eighties no one would have believed it possible.

    • forthurst
      Posted January 13, 2012 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

      “If you has predicted these changes in loyalties back in the seventies and eighties no one would have believed it possible.”

      Yes, England is as a nation still busily engaged in heaping up its own funeral pyre.

  19. Winston Smith
    Posted January 13, 2012 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    I don’t buy into the safe seat rhetoric. Slough has been transformed in 40yrs by mass immigration and the Labour Party is very keen to manipulate and pander to the interests of the new arrivals. Some years ago the Labour council removed the ‘Royal County of Berkshire’ signs to be replaced with harsh signs saying just ‘Slough’ in red lettering. It was a significant statement: ‘goodbye old England, welcome to Labourland’. In parts it has a lawless feel, where regulations, especially planning, are not enforced. This is what you get in Labourland.

    However, it should not be like that. Many new arrivals share Conservative values of hardwork, self determination, the family and the importance of tradition. So why do they vote Labour (in general)? A constant failure of the high Tories to get their message across and appeal to a wider electorate, combined with a concerted effort from the (word left out-ed) NUJ to portray the Tories as the baddies and support their comrades within the socialist parties.

    Several years ago, when I was active in the Conservatives, I attended a constituency selection meeting and was very impressed with a candidate called Chris Philip. He was a self made businessman from a relatively lower class background. He was easy the best candidate. He did not win, losing out to the local councillor and campaigner. He went on to win another selection and lost by a handful of votes to the truly awful, Glenda Jackson, in Hampstead luvvie territory.

    I was impressed by Chris Philip’s ‘can do’ approach. He wasn’t prepared to accept the status quo. He believed traditional Labour heartlands could be won over by effective campaigning with the right candidates. He proved this by winning the seat of the Labour council leader in Camden, a working-class Labour ward in hardcore socialist Labour territory. I thought this could be the way forward, remembering how my staunch Labour grandparents had switched to blue in 1979, ’83 & ’87.

    Unfortunately, Cameron and his Etonian clique had different ideas. They weren’t interested in the lost 4m votes, they wanted to appeal to the small, but vociferous middle-class, left-leaning, London elite. This is where we are.

    • zorro
      Posted January 13, 2012 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

      Slough very definitely needs a strong, credible Conservative candidate to counter Fiona MacTaggart (former Cheltenham Ladies College girl, daughter of Sir Ian MacTaggart, multimillionaire Glasgow property developer, Conservative candidate and Eurosceptic, and granddaughter of Sir Herbert Williams, former Tory MP) or maybe she’s an undercover operative!

      zorro

      • zorro
        Posted January 13, 2012 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

        Even I will forgive the incumbent Slough MP if she can get those works in the centre of Slough finished!

        zorro

    • Quietzaple
      Posted January 13, 2012 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

      I won a Tory heartland council seat for Labour. I didn’t get too excited though.

  20. sm
    Posted January 13, 2012 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    this type of background generates great uncertainties in many MPs.
    The boundary review is abolishing 50 seats in total. It is a preoccupation of many MPs.

    mmm… sympathy at a human level. This situation is far from unique and reinforces the sense of seperation from the public, why do they fear the public?

    Maybe if the MP’s represented their constituents and demonstrably voted in accordance with there wishes or even in accordance with logical,rational reasoning. Even if one were to disagree one may be able to appreciate the good intent. What we get party controlled sheep- do democracy a great diservice as such they remain unfit for the post in the eyes of the electorate.

    If we had a more direct connection and MP’s voted more thoughtfully considering electors interests and proved it, they may stand a better chance facing down the Party Whip, but MP’s would need to be able to carry sufficient support to see it through and rights of recourse to the electorate to support a postion against a party line. So party whip v MP, the party forces an issue the MP stands firm. Both the seat of the whip and the MP should be put to a by-election.

    The balance of power needs to be changed, towards demos.

  21. Alan Wheatley
    Posted January 13, 2012 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    MP must be one of a very few jobs where you can be summarily dismissed despite having amply fulfilled the requirements and there being no redundancy. Sympathy is limited, however, as candidates know when they apply to be a candidate the terms under which they will be operating if elected.

    The electorate, in as much as they give much thought to such things at all, have a choice to make; the two predominate factors being the party and the candidate. If the favoured candidate is standing for the party you support then the choice is easy. Sometimes the choice can be more of a conundrum, and this is well illustrated with regard to the EU.

    The EU is not like any other issue; it goes to the heart of who governs the UK. NHS budget, trade union reform, grammar schools and so on, though important, are minor, transitory matters by comparison. So how do you cast your vote?

    If party policy is consistent with your views then it is probably more important that the party wins and the merits of that party’s candidate is secondary.

    On the other hand, should you vote for a meritorious candidate whose personal views are in keeping with your own but are at odds with the party’s? It seems to me the problem is that party managers will count ALL votes for the party as an endorsement of party policy and will ignore the fact that some of those votes will have been cast for a member whose views are contrary.

    If you really care about a fundamental issue, and the only opportunity you have to influence policy is by your vote at a general election, then that is an opportunity not to be missed. This may have consequences on scale of “seat safeness”.

    Long gone are the days when I was a voter in the Wokingham constituency, and the foregoing remarks are intended generally.

  22. AndyC71
    Posted January 13, 2012 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    I can’t help thinking that Howard Flight deserved a safe seat for saying what he did, rather than the sack. But we live in strange times, where public spending is cut but still manages to rise.

    I like Hannan’s idea for primary elections.

    • Quietzaple
      Posted January 13, 2012 at 11:07 pm | Permalink

      Which the Tories used significantly in the redrawn Totnes seat where, to judge from the Euro Elections which were counted on local authority areas, UKIP had a small majority over the Tories.

      The selectors chose a shortlist of two male Councillors and a lady Dr with lots of inexperienced political savvy and anti EU slogans. Guess who won the nomination?

      Much the same method was chosen in London when Bojo was chosen as Tory Mayoral candidate. It was a means to promotion, nothing much to do with democratic assessment.

      Amusingly the Tory/Lib-Dems’Guardian’s Dep Editor Michael White chaired one of these selection conferences. Sanitising piffle IMHO.

      We see in the USA now how the media play a strong role in primaries. The real test will come with Mayors and Police Chiefs.

      Sign for the foreign based media owners and leaders who run our national
      Media to go local is my guess.

  23. Anne Palmer
    Posted January 13, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    Well John Redwood, I normally speed read, but this time, you have had me reading every word. Thank you. The next chapter must surely be if MP’s can be or are allowed to be true to THEIR belief of what being an MP is all about.

    Looking at the whole picture in what happened at the last General election, I see the “set up” at present, that although the Conservatives had the most votes but no where near enough to Govern on their own they chose to ‘invite’ the LibDems to sit on the benches beside them. The people have had very a rough deal because as I see it, in order to keep the LibDems ‘on side’, the LibDems have the most power, and ‘boy’ do they know how to use it. This will always be so until the 5 year term comes to its natural end or, until there comes a time when the LibDems do not get their way.

    I saw them as a “make weight” at first, but my, how they have used that power, yet they would never had even a taste of power and never should have done in truth.

    Regarding the reduction and boundary changes. I question why there will be any need of any MP’s at all in this Country once the EU’s new EU Regions are actively engaged and instructed directly by the EU’s Committee of the Regions. Surely not all MP’s are going to be shunted into the House of Lords, for at the last count there were 826 already -today 827. Going up and up. What happens when THEY are replaced by yet another update?

    It is a fact that many more people are beginning to understand that all three major Political Parties want to remain in the EU. The people are also beginning to see through Mr Cameron’s words. a) he did not reject a TREATY when he said ‘no’ at the summit’s table, but what he did was what was required all along. His ‘NO’ allowed the rest to get on with what they really wanted-the Treaty waiting in the wings. b) I congratulate him on his decision not to remove all Benefits (If he ever had any intention of doing so) because the people now think that he has listened to them, and are pleased that he is no longer going to remove ALL benefits, just some. It is just his way of getting what ever he wanted in the first place. In my life-time, I have met and worked for many like him.

    I would just like our Politicians to be Glad the EU is insisting that we have HS2. That we are GLAD that the EU through its Committee of the Regions decided we should divide ENGLAND up into EU Regions, (We know Scotland, Wales and London are already classed as EU Regions) and we should be GLAD we are reducing Benefits so that we can continue to pay billions of British pounds to the European Union while still paying our own MP’s as if they are governing us. Sorry if I sound like Pollyanna.

  24. backofanenvelope
    Posted January 13, 2012 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    There are too many MPs on the government payroll. A third of the Tories are on it. Reducing the number of MPs without reducing the number of ministers is going to make this worse. Why do we need a minister for waste? Or bus tickets.

    We need to impose some age limits. Minimum age should be about 35 and max should be the state pension start age.

    It won’t happen because Turkeys don’t vote for Christmas.

    reply: We have just legislated to remove compulsory retirement ages. I agree we need to limit the number of Ministers. Cabinet posts are limited by a long standing convention.

  25. alan jutson
    Posted January 13, 2012 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    An interesting post John, but I think you have probably got your rose tinted glasses on today, and you are perhaps judging other people in government by the standards (thoughts, deeds, actions and experience) that you have/set for yourself.

    I go to a degree with the collective responsibility tag, but why are not people simply honest about saying so.
    Surely a cabinet meeting should be democratic in some way or another, what is wrong with people simply saying they would perhaps have done some things slightly differently, but agree to go along with the majority after a vote, having made their views known to all concerned and will support that decision 100%.

    Fully aware the media would try and dig further and come up with make believe so called splits, but at the moment many politicians (yourself excluded) appear to be no more than party line parrots, without a mind of their own, dictated to by the whips.

    Having said the above I fully accept that you cannot have alternative views on policy the majority of the time and hope to remain within the inner circle, other than perhaps have some influence sometimes as a sounding board from the outside !!!!

    Ring any bells.?.

  26. Quietzaple
    Posted January 13, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    Only masochists and tendentious propagandists find unreasoning cynicism attractive, and in the latter cases, selectively.

  27. Ken Whistance
    Posted January 13, 2012 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    You are under something of a misapprehension I think??
    Despite what you and your colleagues like to think, you do not govern me. I can do that quite adequately for myself.
    What you do, in the most part, is process endless, totally unnecessary legislation, seemingly for the sole purpose of giving ‘the state’ ever greater control of the way I live my life.
    I am coming up to retirement now and rather belatedly have come to realise that I do not need all this control so, while willingly accepting some of your legislation most of it I totally ignore.
    We used to have government by consent but I have never consented to the vast majority of the legislation that has been passed in the past forty years so feel no sense of guilt at all in consigning it all to the dustbin.
    I am not an ‘activist’ of any description and have never been a member of any political party.
    I am just happy that I have finally come to the conclusion that I don’t need any of you to help me lead my life. I can do it quite adequately on my own with no, or very little, help from the state.

    Best wishes

    Ken

    Reply: As an MP who wants less law and regulation I understand how you feel about being overgoverned. However, Parliament and the government does govern you. Laws they make are there for you to obey and you can be prosecuted for failure to do so. That is why consent matters, and why a lively democracy has to allow those who feel unhappy means of expression and chances to change what is going on.

    • zorro
      Posted January 13, 2012 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

      Ken,
      That is what true freedom is, the realisation that you do not have to conform to unreasonable diktats. I agree that one should conform to the law of the land, but this duty has been sorely tested by the flood of nannying legislation over the last fifty years or so.

      zorro

      • APL
        Posted January 14, 2012 at 11:36 am | Permalink

        Zorro: “That is what true freedom is, the realisation that you do not have to conform to unreasonable diktats. ”

        Unfortunately, that only works if you are happy living a sort of shadow existence. One slip, one mistake and the full force of the armed state will descend on you. Doesn’t matter if you are a vulnerable OAP who can’t or won’t pay his or her Council Tax, off to goal or (etc)

        If you are outside the machine and fall foul of it, look out

        Much better not to allow the situation to arise in the first place, the State makes a useful pet, but a hateful master.

  28. lojolondon
    Posted January 13, 2012 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    Dear John, I agree with you there is no ‘seat for life’. But the average MP (and voter!) realises that an MP’s career will be brought to a halt far quicker if he annoys his party than if he annoys his voters. ‘Tame’ MP’s who find themselves in a risky seat are ‘parachuted’ to a safe seat, while ‘troublesome’ MP’s who disobey 3 line whips and go against the party line find themselves without lucrative ‘committee’ work and sidelined and eventually perhaps taken off the list of candidates.

    To be fair, (especially regarding ‘committees’) I refer mainly to the last 14 years, not the last 1 year.

  29. Tom
    Posted January 13, 2012 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

    It appears and I could be wrong that a lot of M.P.s make a career in and of politics I would think this gives them a very narrow view of life. Unless of course they were lawyers, this probably gives them an even narrower view .

  30. Iain Gill
    Posted January 13, 2012 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

    I always liked Dave Nellist as a local MP, he did a good job at that, sadly his party machine decided his face didnt fit despite him being voted parlimentarian of the year by his fellow MP’s I seem to remember…

    The party system does let people down in many ways. Anyone but anyone could get elected in (named NE seat) if they had “labour” written next to their name, it is sad in the extreme the dross that the party machine gives the people in this situation. It does the North East accent no favours having obvious dross as examples down in Westminster.

    I would prefer all ballot papers to have the party names removed and folk just voted for the person they preferred.

  31. BobE
    Posted January 13, 2012 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

    Tories: we’ll use ancient laws to steamroller through welfare cuts http://mirr.im/xEvgs8

  32. Barbara Stevens
    Posted January 13, 2012 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

    I saw QT last night, and the ministers answers on the rail issue was weak. She really declined to say how she would redistribute the 35 billion. Surely, though the real issue here is the people this line effects. Its blighting lives terribly and should be stopped. Its not really needed, but upgrading all the systems nationally is. Mr Cameron said he would listen to people, he’s not listening to these people. The time saved is minimal and it’s alot of money for the few to travel in luxury. Most of us won’t be able to afford the tickets.
    As for MPs, well there have been many who have had the job for life, and made a good living from it, but they’ve served as well, and if people give them their vote that’s fair enough. I do believe though MPs should be more accountable to the electors, and more accessable. I do think there is more to worry about now, with Scotland on the brink of independance and all the issues that will bring. I’m not happy about this at all. This man Salmond is not being entirely truthful on what independance will mean to the Scottish people, may be Mr Camerons intervention as woken them up to the dangers of this man. What about currancy issues for example, a very serious thing, will they still have the pound, or sterling, or the euro. The latter would be terrible for Scotland given the lastest news from the markets. Perhaps, John, you could enlighten us on some senorios on this subject. I’m for keeping the union, but not on Mr Salmonds ideas, Cameron was right to interevene and expose him for what he is, the people should decide and debate should be open and be seen to be open.

    Reply: Mr S says he wants to keep the pound and the Queen.

  33. uanime5
    Posted January 13, 2012 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

    According to the Electoral Reform Society of the 650 constituencies 382 (59%) are safe seats and they correctly predicted 380 seats in the 2010 election. The high number of safe seats means that it’s a far more serious problem than you implied.

    http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/safe-seats/

  34. APL
    Posted January 14, 2012 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    On topic, any comments about the latest proposals to mandate state funding for political parties?

    My reading is that the political class find it too onourous to engage in democracy, they’d just like to carry on without having to bother about self funding, much better to force tax payers to foot the bill for the established parties through the political levy, such a scheme comes with the additional benefit that fringe parties are completely locked out of the system.

  35. Winston's Black Dog
    Posted January 17, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    HS2 part of the trans european network decreed by Delors back in the eighties.

    Technically national governments have the choice as to whether or not it should be built but once the decision to go ahead is made then it follows EU rules.

    Wave your phantom veto this time Dave!

    Didn’t think so!

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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