An MP’s personal views


            There has been debate recently over whether an MP should vote for a personal view, or should seek to represent his constituents. People often say they like “independent” MPs, MPs who will disagree with their party where necessary. They say they like an MP who represents his constituents. On many issues constituents are very divided and hold a wide range of contradictory views.  People also vote in very large numbers for leading parties, recognising that is the way to influence who governs.

             Let me try and shed some light on how an MP forms his or her decision. The MP’s personal view, if he or she holds one at all on an issue, is not the most important consideration, and can  often be irrelevant. Indeed, if the MP holds a personal view based on  his or her personal interests, the view has to be ignored or suppressed. An MP should not be using public office to further a personal agenda.

               An MP should ask what is in the national interest. He should ask what is his party’s view? What did he and his party put as their view at the last Election? What is the view of his constituents – is there a strong or majority view? Is that view in agreement or disagreement with his party’s view? 

                  When you first become a candidate you discover you need to have views on a wide range of topics you had little considered before. One of the great interests of the job as an MP is the huge range of issues, often quite detailed, that people expect you to take an interest in or to have a view on. Belonging to a  large party can help. Your party will have experts in most topics, and will have considered many of these issues. You may find the party view on a matter you do not know much about is just fine, offering you the back up you need on the topic. As you  become a more experienced MP you gain confidence in your knowledge of a wider range of issues, and learn more of the limitations of some party positions. You are also in a position to seek to influence or change your party’s view.

                    The “free vote” issues are ones where the main parties agree to disagree amongst  themselves and leave it to candidates and MPs to have their own view. These tend to be issues where the great religions  have strong views and are often Home Office and Justice Department matters. Some MPs have strong views themselves on these issues. Others seek to reflect majority opinion or majority opinion within their local parties on these things.

                  In the current Parliament many Conservative MPs wish to be true to the principles and policies they and their party set out before the Election, despite now being in Coalition. Some decry the lack of Conservative loyalty to the leadership. Others understand that many Conservative MPs are trying to keep alight the flame of Conservatism at a time when their leaders make compromises with Lib Dems to keep the Coalition together. The Conservative rebels mirror the Lib Dem ones. It is just that there are so many more Conservative rebels, because there are so few Ministerial jobs for Conservative MPs proportionately compared to the Lib Dems.

                 An MP has access to plenty of opinion and information when making up his or her mind on an issue. A sensible MP also understands the limitations of his or her understanding and relies on others or on professional advice where necessary. I am not a nuclear scientist, so I would need professional advice on the risks and methods of nuclear generation. I am a long term student of banks andthe  financial system, so can form more of my own view of what is needed to transform the UK banking industry. MPs who specialise often are more effective. They may start with expertise from past jobs. They may increase or create the expertise by being intelligent readers and questioners in a given area of policy as MPs.

                 There are as many ways of forming a judgement about matters as there are MPs. In the end the main question should be What is in the national interest?  The important balance to strike is between the wishes of constituency, party and commonsense. A personal opinion is a luxury that may not be appropriate.


  1. lifelogic
    February 8, 2013

    An MP should not be using public office to further a personal agenda, they should look at what will work and produce the best outcome on average for the population in general.

    This however is, of course, pretty much the exact opposite of what happens in practice.

    Pressure groups,
    so called “paid consultancies” by MPs,
    the influence of political parties,
    the influence of the civil service and bureaucrats,
    the influence of powerful and often malign professions law and medicine come to mind but others too,
    the malign influence, high pay pensions and “special” tax laws of the EU,
    the politics of envy and irrational emotion used so effectively mainly by the left.
    irrational religions and superstitions and their supporters,
    the selfish interests of a particular constituency,
    the desire of whole industries to get their hands on tax payers cash by hook or by
    crook (such as the wind industry, pv, trains, energy inspection, HIP type of artificial “industries”).
    the desire of those with power to create well paid jobs for oneself and ones relatives and friends

    All these distort the system to profit those near power at the expense of the many who vote and pay for it all.

    The general, but not quite infallible, rule is that anyone seeking to be an MP is probably quite unsuitable to be one. We see this with Chris Huhne and the very many who are just like him and often far worse – if that is possible.

    It is largely government by the state sector and for the state sector. All at the expense of the other 80% who pay for it all.

    1. livelogic
      February 8, 2013

      I see Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, one of the few sensible Tories about, was rather optimistic yesterday – on BBC1’s This Week.

      He said something like – if we are not loosing votes to UKIP, because we have settled the European issue and people are not voting tactically for the Libdems, to keep the Tories out, then we are in a much stronger position in 2015 than most people currently say.

      Well I suppose not that optimistic very carefully chosen words – after all Cameron will not settle the European issue before 2015 (or ever, it is simply not in his socialist genes so to do). The man he cannot even get the constituency boundaries sorted fairly. Also some daft people will still vote Libdum. It is, after all, a BBC think, fake green, soak the rich, Chris Huhne type of religion after all.

      Anyway most sensible people say the Tories have not a cat in hells chance. So “stronger than most people say” does not say very much. Even replacing Cameron, which clearly will not happen, would not help I suspect.

    2. lifelogic
      February 8, 2013

      I see there are some moves to remove the pro EU indoctrination from the school exam syllabus. Can Mr Gove perhaps do something about the warming and quack science energy agenda, that abounds there too. Also perhaps all the quack economics that is about.

      Maybe even extend it to the other religions too perhaps, rather than creating cleavages in society and ingraining them into vulnerable young minds. Have we learned nothing from Northern Ireland?

      1. Bazman
        February 9, 2013

        To censor it to your viewpoint that is often based on much quackery itself is it not? Daily Mail, Telegraph, websites of dubious science and funding and free market fundamentalism that is often very far from reality and the best interests of the majority of this country. He might just do that.

    3. Disaffected
      February 8, 2013

      JR, interest groups and lobbying appear to be missed off the list as well as EU directives, regulations and laws and lobbying for the same.

      Nor can it be right that a MP or minister who might exercise influence, direction or control for the parliament over a particular aspect, for example say energy or defence, then shortly work for a leading company or be a security consultant in that field after a very short period of time of leaving office. We saw how many former ministers were caught offering themselves for sale. The time period needs to be extended to at least a couple for years. And for a former prime minister even longer, as they are privy to national secrets and as they get a prime ministers allowance there is no worry about earning a living.

      It is mooted the real reason gay marriage has been introduced now, without any form of mandate or announcement in the Queen’s speech, is that the EU would have imposed gay marriage on the UK next year coinciding with the EU elections which would be a disaster for Cameron and the Tory prospects. Consequently it is thought he has jumped the gun hoping it will not feature and be forgotten in the European elections next year. Perhaps he has not got the confidence of his alleged safe guards as he claims? If correct where does this sort of issue rest with the above blog?

    4. Bob
      February 9, 2013

      “We see this with Chris Huhne and the very many who are just like him and often far worse – if that is possible.”

      Improbable, but not impossible.

  2. barnacle bill
    February 8, 2013

    A personal opinion is a luxury that may not be appropriate.

    But a conscience is something that should be standard in every MP’s decision making.

    1. livelogic
      February 8, 2013

      A personal opinion, if it is logical, intelligent and derived from genuine consideration of all the people’s interests is quite proper.

      (Allegations about a named Labour MP removed-ed)

    2. outsider
      February 8, 2013

      One’s personal opinion normally coincides with what one conceives as being the national interest.
      For anyone who is reasonably objective, a personal opinion is not the same as self-interest or mere personal preference and quite often conflicts with it.
      So if one’s personal opinion stands up against counter arguments, one should stick with it as a proper matter of conscience, and not just on “moral” issues.

    3. Disaffected
      February 8, 2013

      You would have to look very hard to find a politicians conscience. Look at the starving Greeks and ask how many UK or EU politicians have said, okay the EU project is not worth this sort of human devastation or business destruction? Quite the contrary, Cameron rants on about, wasteful and reckless, overseas aid when he could help the Greeks and Spaniards by lobbying to end the single currency and EU project causing the suffering.

      Giving aid an food is not always the answer, mother nature acts for every species when there is not enough food, water, weather etc. Humans are not any different. Birth control might be a better answer than food and medicine. It might be a sign from mother nature there is not enough world resources for the exploding population, nor is mass immigration the answer either. I agree with David Attenborough the human race is the next plague on world resources.

      1. Bazman
        February 9, 2013

        Easy for you to have this simplistic right wing fantasy in a wealth country like Britain. How would you feel if this was applied to you. Precious you? There is easily enough food for the worlds population, but because of politics is not distributed evenly. The birth control seems to work in richer countries as we have aging populations. In a third world country the number of children might be for your own survival. Its really quite amazing that you are able to survive every day if you are this simple.

  3. Brian Tomkinson
    February 8, 2013

    JR: “The important balance to strike is between the wishes of constituency, party and commonsense.”
    Too often this is totally skewed towards the wishes of the party, not the general view of the party but the whim of the party leader. MPs seek promotion and a career so too often dance to the tune of the leader and his whips above all else. That is what most people detest. If they won’t think what is best for the country why have them?

  4. oldtimer
    February 8, 2013

    You set out the ideal situation very clearly. Unfortunately there remain many examples in both the present and the recent past of conflicts of interest. Several relate to energy interests and the direction of government subsidies to promote particular policies.

    1. Bob
      February 8, 2013

      The government should avoid changed important and age old institutions without first declaring such intended changes in their election manifestos, ESPECIALLY where there is no urgent need of change.

      The same sex marriage issue could easily have waited until the next General Election. What was the urgency?

      I know you voted against Mr Redwood because of the indecent haste with which your leader approached the matter, and I wish that all MPs (include the homosexuals – if they had any integrity) had done likewise on the grounds that the issue had not been properly debated in public. My own MP Mr IDS has sold out once again, not that I would ever vote for him again after the EU referendum débâcle in 2011.

  5. Peter Davies
    February 8, 2013

    “An MP should not be using public office to further a personal agenda.” – Correct, we have seen plenty of examples in the past from the (nAmed-ed) types where that is indeed how they have appeared to behave.

  6. Wilko
    February 8, 2013

    The interests of those in Wokingham and beyond are well represented by your decisions.

  7. Normandee
    February 8, 2013

    Whilst worthy, your dream world of all mp’s having the same attitude as yourself is ingenuous, all too many MP’s have agendas and only pay lip service to their constituents. Probably more in the opposition and Limp dumbs, but the conservatives have their guilty parties as well. If all constituents were convinced of this worthiness then politicians standing in the community would be better, but it isn’t.

  8. lojolondon
    February 8, 2013

    Thanks for this thoughtful article, John, I always appreciate your approach.

    1. Mike Stallard
      February 8, 2013

      Well said!

    2. alan jutson
      February 8, 2013

      Thank you for your thoughts.

      Shame many others do not practise with similar views and actions

  9. sm
    February 8, 2013

    But generally we don’t seem to get representative governments on many many major issues.

    Perhaps if we had more transparency, where each MP had to state on each vote.
    Whether they voted
    1) To quietly rubber stamp a EU measure or dictat. (This should be unpaid/unpensioned voluntary work)
    1) Per the Gov orders (whipped) not in manifesto pledge
    2)Per the Gov orders (whipped) in manifesto pledge
    3)Per their own judgement -with explanation
    4)Per their constituents views (ie representative)- with some proof polling/local referendums.

    It would also help if the recall act was placed on statute, along with some major advances in IT to enable more frequent and representative voting like in Switzerland.

  10. John B
    February 8, 2013

    Democracy pure where everyone eligible to vote can meet, discuss and reach a majority, informed decision went out with the Greek City States.

    So we have representative democracy, which is what the UK is supposed to be, so unless an MP first and foremost represents the views of his constituents as best he can know and understand these, on any given issue, the term ‘represent democracy’ is meaningless, and the result is no better than oligarchy, where a relatively small group of ‘the wise’ decide what is in everyone’s (national) interest.

    In a representative democracy an MP does not just represent those who voted for him or his Party, but everyone in the constituency.

    How many MPs routinely hold public meetings to explain and get feed back on issues under debate in Parliament?

    No person, no group, can possibly know the individual circumstances, hopes, aspirations, needs, wishes, abilities of 60 million people.

    600 or so men and women, no matter how well intended, cannot decide what is in the national interest. The ‘nation’ is an abstract. It cannot speak, see, hear, think, feel, suffer, laugh… it is a collective of individuals which make up the nation and only they collectively can decide what is in their interest.

    No Government built railways in the 19th Century, but a Government did build Concorde… ‘in the national interest’ and they are set to build another Concorde (HS2), ‘in the national interest’.

    Government needs to be handed back to the People at a local level who know their own business in a way no self-serving bunch at the centre can ever know.

  11. Max Dunbar
    February 8, 2013

    Having attended a number of surgeries with my local MP in Glasgow I think it would be reasonable to say that, from my observations, most constituents appear to take the trouble to do so for purely practical personal reasons only. It is a matter of seeking help and advice rather than questioning one’s MP on important national issues. Most people are not really interested or are not prepared to make the effort to find their MP and question them. This attitude probably encourages MPs to indulge in their own or their party’s pet projects and obsessions instead of representing the views of their constituents many of whom are apathetic, uninterested or cynical non-voters anyway. After all, once elected they are unsackable for 5 years.
    Unsurprisingly, I disagree with virtually everything that my Libdem MP says. Am I wasting my time going to surgeries? Probably. But why allow them an easy ride? If you have the time and inclination to visit your local MP then I would, nevertheless, recommend it. There is not much point in moaning and complaining unless some action is taken, even if it appears to be futile – and even if you have given up on voting it maintains a connection with our political system.

  12. voice_from_the_floor
    February 8, 2013

    Our centuries old democratic system is founded upon the principle that all communities around the country are able to appoint a representative to speak FOR them in proceedings at the nation’s government – otherwise known as Parliament. It is the fundamental purpose of a Member of Parliament to make representations based upon what is in the best interests of the members of his or her constituency. Anything that deviates from this core purpose might reasonably be perceived by some as a dereliction of duty.

    Far, far too many of the participants within our system of governance (and that includes civil servants and advisers as well as MPs) seem to have lost sight of the primary function of our system of ‘elected representatives’. That is possibly one of the main reasons why our parliamentary system is held in such disregard by the general public at the moment.

    There is a desperate need for local people to have the freedom to choose local candidates that they trust to actually represent THEM in parliament. At the moment, we seem to have a system where MPs are perceived by some to be the government’s representatives in the people rather than the other way around. The stringent way in which party lists of approved candidates are managed has a lot to do with this and is possibly one of the reasons why there is now such a disconnect between government and voters.

  13. Denis Cooper
    February 8, 2013

    Even when it’s supposedly a “free” vote you get party leaders trying to “persuade” MPs to vote in a certain way, and the basic fact is that almost every MP has only got into the Commons because he secured the official endorsement and active support of one of the larger political parties, and his promotion and even his re-election largely depends upon the continuing patronage of those who control his particular political gang.

    I won’t say that they have all sold their souls to get into Parliament, as that will not always be the case, but clearly they are all under an obligation to their parties in a way which is not consistent with the Code of Conduct for MPs:

    and in particular with this:


    Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might influence them in the performance of their official duties.”

  14. Bert Young
    February 8, 2013

    Any intelligent individual having listened carefully to a reasoned case , can consult , consider and come to a decision . I do not believe that an MP should always follow his Party’s line ; if such a line was a main plank in its election manifesto , then he/she has no choice , he/she must support . In all other considerations , the conclusion reached should be a personal one ; National interests would have formed a part of the reasoning process . Comments have been made about new striving MPs who wish to be noticed by their leadership and toe the line in order to obtain a ministerial role ; these individuals are those who cannot be trusted . The MPs who have my respect are those who are strong in character and can always be relied upon to behave according to a moral conscience .

  15. Atlas
    February 8, 2013

    If only in the Global Warming debate, MPs, in their search for the true state of affairs as you describe, would consider the opinions of those scientists who do not subscribe to the present orthodoxy…

  16. Terry
    February 8, 2013

    I totally agree with your logic, John. More is the pity that some modern MP’s, in all parties, seem to think themselves above the wishes of the electorate and that they were voted in to do as they wished without any regard to their constituents.

    Also, I cannot see how a Cabinet Minister can gain the respect of his staff if he has no previous experience in the field of his particular department. It’s all very well to assume his team of professional civil servants have all of the knowledge but it means the country is always subjected their way and their decisions. The are not elected to do that but I have the impression that ‘Sir Humphrey’ still rules Westminster which might explain why the place is so slow and so outdated. And susceptible to sharp businessmen as has been the case over the past decade or so. The PFI, The West Coast Railway and Aircraft Carriers that are cheaper to build than to cancel, for examples.

  17. Antisthenes
    February 8, 2013

    There are C650 MPs and C65 million people in the UK . 65 million collectively have far more experience and knowledge than any 650 so should not those 65 million be the ones who decides what government can or cannot do.Government after all is only there to benefit the 65 million and not the 650. Many of those 650 more often than not do in fact benefit from government far more than the 65 million and very much to the cost of the 65 million. We however do now have a dilemma because of past and present transgressions, abuses and agenda driven government. Inspired mostly by the left we now no longer have a balanced society but have one dominated by a very large dependency section whose only concern is to keep the wheels of wealth distribution rolling which of course requires an ever more large and more authoritarian state. A situation that Mises predicted many years ago and which I quote “A system in which a majority of the population is dependent on the
    government [public sector employment] leads to an unstable political and economic situation, since a majority of the population then has a vested interest in increasing the power of government to redistribute wealth.” Of course when he wrote that welfare dependency was not an issue as it is to day which swells the ranks of the dependants even more. So releasing power back to the people before addressing the dependency problem would only lead to even more excess than we now currently experience although when Labour returns to government in 2015 or before we shall of course see a lot more unleashing of that excess. So we have a catch 22 situation politicians cannot relinquish power even if they wanted to which they do not because of the past mistakes mistakes that now also means that the majority of the 65 million do not want them to give up that power either.

  18. forthurst
    February 8, 2013

    “Indeed, if the MP holds a personal view based on his or her personal interests, the view has to be ignored or suppressed. An MP should not be using public office to further a personal agenda.”

    So how did we become multi-culturalised? How did the opinions of a minority of MPs, who (words left out) have been promoting a specifically anti-English agenda for decades, come to override the interests of the English people who were never asked and never wished to have their homeland (subject to such rapid inward migration-ed)? Why do MPs, including Cameron, spend so much time explaining how much they love Israel, a foreign country?

    Why do most MPs believe that any law emanating from, but not necessarily concocted by, Brussels must by definition be a good law and worthy of implementation without quibble? How on Earth did MPs find themselves debating ‘gay marriage’ without making any attempt to establish from where exactly this initiative arose and by what circuitous route it came to be put before the HoC? Is it not time time, instead of treating every matter as though they thought of it themselves, that politicans started to ask questions about whose agenda is being put before them for debate? They might be surprised as to the extent to which so much has a common font unconcerned with or contrary to the interests of the English people.

    Why do most MPs believe that being in the EU, an organisation which is in favour of abolishing our homelands and our national identities, that is in favour of immigration from outside the EU, is good for us?

    Reply: And why do people keep electing such people? Maybe they see it another way. Labour was always a pro EU party, which transferred huge powers to the EU under Nice, Amsterdam and Lisbon. Conservatives opposed this but did not win elections for doing so. Specialist parties against this transfer did not win a single seat.

    1. forthurst
      February 8, 2013

      Reply to reply: “Maybe they see it another way.”

      Maybe they assume incorrectly that their MPs, provided they belong to ‘their’ parties will be looking after their interests. How many working class English failed to notice that New Labour had ditched them in favour of those who are not English? Maybe they are easily groomed by organisations like the BBC into believing whatever the enemy within wishes them to believe.

      1. JimF
        February 8, 2013

        Groomed isn’t too strong a word.
        Cameron playing hard with the EU by promising a referendum on the Lisbon treaty befor the election;
        Look at the way Clegg solemnly promised students no tuition fees. They believed and voted.
        Look at the way Blair feigned empathy with Mondeo man, and took votes from the Tories, only to undermine him by importing cheap labour and (perosnal attack on Blair left out-ed)
        Look at the way Brown attacked the pension funds of his voters behind their backs, then doubled that up by dissing Lloyds into an ill-feted merger with HBOS
        You have to have belief that at some stage people will wake up and see what is wrong with this LibLabDem PR scam way of running the Country.

      2. Bob
        February 9, 2013

        Politicians tend to make false promises and hide their true intentions until they are in positions of power.

        same sex weddings
        “our air is not for sale”
        recall of rogue MPs
        £1m IHT threshold
        repatriation of power from the EU
        immigration control
        removing child allowance for hard workers

        Mr Cameron would not have gotten into number ten if he had declared his gay marriage intentions.

  19. JimF
    February 8, 2013

    All fine, but there is a total imbalance between our need for technological and scientific industries and the skills and background of MPs, Ministers and top Civil Servants.

    How many computer scientists are Ministers?
    How many physicists, chemists or biologists?
    How many materials scientists, metallugists or engineers?
    How many have MBA’s?

    David Cameron -PPE
    George Osborne Chancellor -Modern History
    William Hague Foreign Secretary -PPE
    Sir Jeremy Heywood Head of Civil Service -History and Economics
    Theresa May Home Sec -Geography
    Jeremy Hunt Health Sec -PPE
    Ed Davey Climate -PPE
    Nick Clegg -Archaeology and Anthropology
    Owen Paterson Food Env Rural Affairs -History
    Michael Gove Education – English

    and so the list goes on….
    without the mind set and skills sets to address analytical and scientific challenges, we will continue to find our institutions run on emotions and PR skills, without feeling for the figures or logical analysis. We get horses in our beef, maniac nurses and procedures in our hospitals, imbalances in government spending against receipts.

    I would argue that such a bias in background and experience must necessarily colour MPs’ judgements of what is in the best interests of the Country. Your ability with business, numerical analysis and logical reasoning appear to be rare amongst your contemporaries in Parliament and the senior Civil service. This is why you face such an uphill battle with your views in your Party.

    1. SociBen
      February 9, 2013

      is it possible that the imbalance is in the education system? We don’t train people to be engineers or scientist with the intent of entering politics. Those people with the education are usually entering the private sector where the money is and are then hired as consultants by those in Parliament.

    2. Bob
      February 9, 2013

      “How many have MBA’s?”

      How many could run a whelk stall?

  20. SociBen
    February 9, 2013

    If you promise your constituents one thing, doesn’t it cause conflict if your party as a whole takes a different stance? I am in Canada, and this happened to one of our MP’s. He voted for his area and against his party and was promptly given the boot. He ran again in the next election as an independent and won. Where does one draw the line and who does one side with? Is the party always right?

  21. David Langley
    February 9, 2013

    Trying to be “All things to all men”, is a difficult task and one could be excused for winding up being nothing to everybody. The only thing that would make sense is a vote wielding public that has a vote on virtually every topic which is clearly impossible at this time. We could do better however to cut out the middlemen a lot more than we do now. The Swiss style politics where there are constant requests to the public to vote on important topics has given the Swiss people a strong sense that politicians are belonging to their communities, and a belief in few politicians and lots of local democracy that is visible and quickly responsive to local and National views and needs.
    Where a politician tries to present a topic that does not chime with national and local interest, that topic doesn’t get far and neither does the politician who has tried to introduce his pet.
    What I am saying is that basically we want the right policies for the majority, no current party has a majority and therefore you should tread very carefully when introducing topics that have no universal approval. We have all seen recently the results of politicians arrogantly saying they represent the great British public when clearly they dont.
    I agree that many people entering politics are seeking fame and fortune and at least a sinecure to protect themselves and their families. Its a job and many look upon it as that and try and screw as much dosh and financial security out of it as they can, its only natural.

  22. David Langley
    February 9, 2013

    I would be interested in your views on the current EU budget performance. We have won a cut in the EU budget, a triumph, but wait a minute, what was Schultze saying in Hollandes ear? I understand a secret vote by MEPs may overturn this cut and even Schultze himself has some sort of veto. The EU will get their way or I will eat my Green Beret.

  23. Tim
    February 9, 2013

    There’s an inherent contradiction here John.

    Don’t vote according to your own opinion but your opinion of the national interest. Sounds the a fancy way of saying vote for your own interests. Dress it up anyway you like but your opinion of the national interest is just that; your opinion.

  24. Bazman
    February 9, 2013

    Interesting article. What do you get out of this site John? You get to spread a bit of light Tory propaganda, but I don’t think that’s the real reason you maintain it so closely and with little censorship. Is it like an information mine of many opinions and subjects and no matter what is wrote as long as it is valid or true makes you look good?

    Reply : I maintain it to promote democratic discussion

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