Collaboration or conflict in the Commons?


          The idea that politicians and parties should seek consensus is popular. Many people say it would be good if parties learned to work together more for the sake of the country. They tell us they think behaviour at Prime Mininster’s Questions (PMQs) is poor, that the Commons should have more serious and well informed debates.

           There is, however, another side to the popular view. When my constituents say they would like to come to the Commons to see it in action, they nearly always want to come for PMQs. PMQs is so different from most of the rest of the work in the Commons – noisy, partisan, point scoring debating at its best and worst. If I say, why not come to a good debate the following day on reform of welfare or our foreign policy, there is little interest.  Some of the time in the Commons small groups of MPs specialising in an important topic debate and discuss amongst themselves in some detail, often without party rancour.  There are , of course, plenty of seats available in the public gallery for most debates, but PMQs is an all ticket match with intense competition for the tickets.

          Voters also often write in and demand that an MP or party puts over their points more strongly or insistently. People understandably want their MP to represent their view as stridently as possible. Rarely do people write in urging us to compromise a view they hold dear for the sake of consensus. Voters are more likely to criticise an MP for not standing up for his principles or for the promise he made at the election, than to complain the MP has failed to compromise such promises or principles for the wider good. Obviously if a constituent did not like an MP’s promise in the first place then they will be pleased if he compromises.

             For the Commons to work at all, there needs to be considerable agreement between the main parties over what is to be debated and how debate is to be conducted. The Commons has long standing conventions that one MP does not make personal accusations about another without giving that MP warning so he can be present to defend himself, that reasonable courtesy is observed between MPs, and that extreme language is avoided. Debate can still be heated, passionate, lively when times demand it and when parties or individuals disagree strongly.

             So often I have found that when all parties agree government usually makes its biggest mistakes. Seeking more consensus can result in very little happening, or in fudge.  Worse still, it can result in disaster. The Exchange Rate Mechanism was an economic policy which did large damage to the UK economy. It was agreed by all three main party leaderships and most MPs. The anti global warming legislation went through with all three party leaderships supporting it. No party asked whether dearer energy was a good idea for the UK economy and consumers, or asked if it might just transfer the carbon dioxide emissions elsewhere as we lost the factories here. .  The public are right to tell us that sometimes we should try harder to reach agreements, but they are also right to love the cut and thrust of true challenge and choice. There needs to be some passion in politics, and there need to be some real differences, to make elections worthwhile. There also needs to be strong criticisms, alternative views and challenges to the orthodoxy before Parliament commits us to major policies which could do damage to our prospects.


  1. Mike Stallard
    May 13, 2012

    This is all so true.

    BUT the emphasis has shifted now. For a new announcement of policy, we get a tractor factory. For an announcement of two parties forming an alliance we get the rose Garden. For a statement of Conservative policy, we get the Daily Telegraph. Parliament ain’t what it once was.

    And, come on! Berlaymont and Strasbourg are the places to look first when a new policy is announced. And these are almost totally unreported. When they are, we see an empty hemicycle, people reading the papers, people chatting or walking out and a general air of people being very highly paid to waste their time somewhere that they don’t want to be.

    Maybe I’m wrong. I just don’t know what goes on in the parliament that really rules us, under the Commission.

  2. Martin Cole
    May 13, 2012

    The British General Public, like all other nationals of nations ruled by the EU, are prohibited from hearing the discussion behind the legislation that really affects their lives, that prepared and proposed from behind closed doors in the secret cabals behinf the EU Council and the meetings of the EU Commissioners in Brussels.

    Almost everything now debated in Parliament has little relevance to the daily lives of ordinary Britons, and the debates more often than not reflect the MPs own indifference. As proof of this point read the contents of the recent Queen’s speech, for which debate would you book, let alone pay for a seat!

  3. Mick Anderson
    May 13, 2012

    With all three significant Parties having a broadly identical set of policies, it is amazing that they find so much to argue about. It all seems to be a pantomime to try and persuade us that they “care” and are “different”, but even when their words disagree, the actions and end results are all the same.

    When it comes to the next election, these absurd displays will make no difference to the way I vote. I can predict what the MP with his name against this area will do because he takes a Ministers salary. Any other candidate is going to have been chosen by their Party, so they are likely to slavishy follow the corresponding Leader, otherwise they wouldn’t have been selected.

    So, is the whole unedifying mess irrelevant? No, because the result has an effect on the various slings and arrows that the Electorate have to suffer. However, when all the protagonists have the same weapons, ammunition and target, it’s quite hard for the target to care who’s attacking.

  4. lifelogic
    May 13, 2012

    Certainly as you say – when all parties agree government usually makes its biggest mistakes. At the moment the consensus is for tax, borrow and waste, an ever bigger state (six new quangos in the queens speech), submission to the EU on everything, gifts and loans to support the absurdly damaging Euro project, grant for pointless PV and wind, more levels of government all over, the new Co2 religion, no grammar schools or even good schools, political indoctrination in schools, a left wing, tax funded indoctrination BBC, a free at the point of use NHS, religious schools, over regulation of everything, and no real wealth ever left with individuals (when it clearly belongs to the state), the pointless “wars” on terrorism & drugs, financial transfer to encourage fecklessness, Blair’s pointless real wars, and endless attacks on personal freedoms………….

    All are surely clearly wrong.

    1. lifelogic
      May 13, 2012

      I see in the telegraph that Chris Huhne (never one to put, saving taxpayers money, high on his priorities) has claimed almost £10,000 in expenses for a survey asking voters how they feel about boundary changes that could lead to him losing his seat as an MP.

      I wonder if that will go down as a benefit in kind on his tax return? Is it in HMRC terms “wholly and exclusively for the purposes of his trade”? Or perhaps just a way to try to retain his job?

    2. lifelogic
      May 13, 2012

      As Roger Scruton put it on Conservative Home:

      “We find ourselves”, “in a country where, despite the prevailing conservative sentiments of voters, our institutions and establishment figures, our civil service and our universities, speak out only for the socialist orthodoxies.”

      Indeed. He could have added most of our charities, schools, the “Arts” industry (especially the subsidised one) and the BBC.

      1. forthurst
        May 13, 2012

        Roger Scrutton speaks for the English because unlike Cameron’s “mainframe computer”, he is English.

        1. forthurst
          May 13, 2012

          However, when he says, “I do not question Mr Cameron’s sincerity or underlying conservative instincts”, he produces no evidence to support that contention, so, slightly sloppy for a professional philosopher.

          1. lifelogic
            May 13, 2012

            Perhaps you are right there.

    3. lifelogic
      May 13, 2012

      I just heard Vince Cable on radio 4 saying reaction for business for the new flexible maternity laws (up to six months for fathers too) has been positive. There is surely a real danger of people choking to death if he say such things at lunch time. Has he ever met a businessman or woman? Is he just lying or really that out of touch with business? I do not know a single business person who honestly thinks it is positive other than perhaps in the legal employment law profession.

      It is patently insane if he wants to get any growth.

      He also said they had removed regulations on the one in one out rule. As I recall there was the liquor chocolate one can he tell us the others please? Meanwhile we have had no retirement, the absurd gender insurance rule and this absurd maternity one.

      Anti business, anti growth, anti tax revenue, Cameron/Cable insanity top to bottom.

      1. Alexis
        May 13, 2012

        I wonder where that law came from.

      2. Bazman
        May 14, 2012

        A bit of a non law really as how many fathers with a new child could just take six months off. You conveniently forgot in you propaganda to mention the leave is unpaid. Self employed? You pay yourself. High flyer? Would not take the leave and so on. Do tell us lifelogic who you suspect would take this six month unpaid holiday? If you cannot then I suggest this is more pro business quackery from you and non benefits from Vince.
        The liqueur chocolate one is another Daily Mail story believed by you a person who believes that bike riding leads to more eating and more pollution. Not real.

        1. lifelogic
          May 15, 2012

          Where on earth do you think the energy comes from for cycling? Clearly from extra food and drink with all the energy used in growing, feeding to animals, cooking, freezing, preparing, packaging, transport, waste etc. It is just basis physics.

          Do you think a steak, chips and claret car would be more efficient than a diesel one? So why think it of a push bike?

          1. Bazman
            May 15, 2012

            Read it and weep.

    4. Derek Buxton
      May 15, 2012

      Just what is “parliament” for? I understood that we were a “representative democracy” which if it is to mean anything would imply that MP’s represented their constituency. One would imagine that taking an Oath to the Crown as representing the People in parliament would also imply putting the interests of Country and People first. And yet, this Country and it’s people are somewhere lost at the very bottom of the list. I thought that parliament had to protect the People from the excesses of the executive branch, something at which they seem singularly lax in performing. Few voted against the Climate Change Act and it has to be asked, why was that? It was guaranteed to ruin our Industry, that was the intention but it passed!
      I am afraid that the version that we gave to the world is now most certainly not what we would call democracy now. At best we have corporatism, a vastly different beast!

  5. Alan
    May 13, 2012

    Did the Exchange Rate Mechanism do large damage to the UK economy? Up to 1992 the UK’s GDP was rising. After we left the ERM the GDP fell and did not get back to the 1992 level for 2 years.

    After devaluation our economy appears richer when measured in pounds. In fact we are poorer measured in other currencies. Devaluation may have a role to play in running a country’s economy, but it is I suspect a fallacy that devaluation necessarily makes a country richer.

    1. lifelogic
      May 13, 2012

      “Did the Exchange Rate Mechanism do large damage to the UK economy?”

      It certainly did it cost me personally and my businesses a small fortune. There was a small fall in GDP post coming out of the ERM, caused by the time lag for the new policy to tax effect, loss of confidence (and confidence in the competence of Government), Major’s pathetic response to the ejection and all the money thrown away by Lamont and Major trying to keep the ERM alive.

      From 93 on however it grew far more quickly than during the ERM fiasco for some time. They then left Blair with a fairly sound economy to destroy this took him some time – hence his three terms of disastrous government .

      Ending with huge debt, war, ignorance, welfare dependency, social division and the suffocation of the wealth creating sector.

      1. Alan
        May 14, 2012

        Thank you for taking the trouble to reply. It is particularly interesting to have comments from someone who remembers the real impact on a business at the time.

        I worry that too many people see devaluation as a ‘get out of jail free’ card that absolves us of the need to have profitable businesses. Devaluation may have a role in making businesses profitable but in my view it should always be a poor second best to policies which improve real productivity, not productivity measured by a ruler whose size keeps shrinking. The UK’s finances are, in my opinion, far too dependent on letting the value of the pound fall.

  6. Brian Tomkinson
    May 13, 2012

    JR: “There needs to be some passion in politics, and there need to be some real differences, to make elections worthwhile. There also needs to be strong criticisms, alternative views and challenges to the orthodoxy before Parliament commits us to major policies which could do damage to our prospects.”
    A summary of just what is lacking in political life today. The three main parties are not offering much to differentiate them but employing a lot of bluster about the minor differences. The party system is failing the country. We need more politicians prepared to fight for what they believe is right for the country and their constituents rather than their parties. It always intrigues me when coalition politicians tell us that they formed a coalition and adopted policies which were in the national interest, as though the policies they fought the election on would not have been in the national interest. Silly me, I thought that they all believed that their policies were in the national interest – if not, just whose interest are they meant to enhance?

  7. zorro
    May 13, 2012

    Please ensure you tell this to DC as he doesn’t seem to keen on debate when it contradicts him or shows him in a poor light. The lack of creative tension has indeed caused some of the polcy mistakes/fudges in the current coalition.


    1. lifelogic
      May 13, 2012

      DC often says the right things in debate – alas he rarely does anything he says hence the six new quangos in the queens speech (was it not a bonfire were were promised – clearly this was a cast iron promise again).

      Did he not promise to make the country business friendly and cut regulation too?

      1. zorro
        May 13, 2012

        Ah but remember….he needs to get jobs for all those who were employed by the quangos he was going to get rid of but hasn’t done so….Oh well, he might have to employ some more as they’ve hardly got rid of any quangos……or he might remember that he needs to cut pointless state spending…….Which is most likely?


  8. Alan Wheatley
    May 13, 2012

    I agree.

    This analysis shows why the government should not at this time be legislating on House of Lords reform. What Parliament could reasonably do is debate the subject is such a way as to inform the public of the issues and the options. If there is consensus within Parliament then the issue should be put to the people in a referendum.

    The fact that all the three main parties included HoL reform in their manifestos at the last election is not a mandate for them to what they will, rather the reverse.

    And incidentally, citing the excessive number of members of the HoL in support of the need for change diminishes rather than enhances the position of party managements when it is they themselves that have brought this position about!

  9. Acorn
    May 13, 2012

    What’s up JR? Your last dozen posts give me the impression that you are practising for a presenters job on CBeebies. Is the Beeb bringing back Jackanory? Are the whips moderating this site now?

    Reply: No, the whips are not involved! I am setting out some of the background to modern UK politics which other readers seem to find interesting. What topics would you like to see discussed that I am missing?

    1. Farmer Geddon
      May 13, 2012


      What do you think would happen & would we benefit if the UK left the EU project ?
      What is the ultimate destination for the EU project with timelines ?
      Why are we denied an EU referendum after so many empty promises from politicians ?
      Why do MPs get better pension schemes & greater subsidies, such as food & alcoholic drinks compared to other parts of the public sector ?
      Is the HoC a complete irrelevance – what are the facts.
      Why don’t independent parties get a voice on the BBC ?
      How can we rid ourselves from crippling bureacracy & political correctness in this country ?
      Why do the Tories say one thing yet do the opposite eg increased state prying into phonecalls, internet usage, contents of emails – who is behind these policies ?

      1. lifelogic
        May 13, 2012

        Seems a reasonable list. I would add why do we pay for religious schools to indoctrination young minds and incubate cleavages and divisions in our society? Have we learned nothing from Northern Ireland?

        Why do they instigate legislation to protect tenants and employees when it have the opposite effect?

        Why do the Tories waste money almost everywhere with such enthusiasm?

        Why does Vince Cable clearly never speak to any real business people?

        1. Acorn
          May 14, 2012

          And; why have conservative back bencher’s (i.e. the fodder) not been much more vocal about separating the “purchaser” from the “provider” of a service that has been annexed / usurped by the public sector? Health and Education come to mind.

          A universal basic health insurance policy could be funded by the state, the provision could easily be supplied by a much more innovative private health sector. The same goes for education, a basic state funded voucher / passport grant system could supply a grant that could be used in any school.

          The next big area that strangles our economy is the way we manage and develop LAND. The stuff that they are not making anymore of – except in Dubai. I accept that the Tory Party is full of land barons – so this idea is going nowhere.

          You should not be able to sit on a piece of land for decades at no cost; waiting for the public sector to gradually surround it with roads and other amenities such that your bit of off market land gets the gold medal prise that is “planning permission”. (Step this way and collect £3 million an acre, just down the road from JR in Windsor. Planning for two very big houses). LVT, Land Value Tax would see the local council share in this windfall. The tax would change annually every time the planning status or ownership changed.

          Remember that house prices only change with the cost of building them. It is the land price they sit on that bubbles and bursts!

      2. uanime5
        May 14, 2012

        “Is the HoC a complete irrelevance – what are the facts.”

        I wouldn’t say the House of Commons was irrelevant, though the House of Lords is another matter. Given that the HoL duplicates the work of the HoC, any amendments can be overridden by the HoC, and it can only delay a bill for 1 year does it offer any real benefits.

        I’d also like more information about academies; such as what is their main purpose, how they differ from Comprehensives, and how they do in terms of exam results.

  10. Alan Wheatley
    May 13, 2012

    I suppose PMQs is appealing for a one-off, quick, first-hand sample of the workings of Parliament. I no longer have any interests in the MSM’s reporting of PMQs as there is rarely anything of interest or importance.

    It is understandable that reporting emphases exchanges between party leaders; I just wish the questions and answers were more significant. A constituent asking a question of local significance is much more relevant, but what of the chances of being there when that happens?

    Some debates are very interesting. Occasionally I make the time and effort to follow all or much of a debate when matter is of importance and interest. Also select committees. But there are only so many hours in the day, and I suppose governance is something we generally delegate to others to do on our behalf.

    I think it would help the public interest in the act of government to more readily be able see at a time of ones choosing after the event who said what and when, a bit like the iPlayer.

  11. Bazman
    May 13, 2012

    I was explaining this to my six year old daughter in the car yesterday after she spotted a police car and asked who tells the policeman off. Well…until, silly ideas,
    parliament, house of lords, MP’s, backward and forwards, agreement and problems with this. Seemed quite happy with the explanation.

    1. Mike Stallard
      May 13, 2012

      What a bright little girl: Quis custodiet etc etc.

  12. colliemum
    May 13, 2012

    “So often I have found that when all parties agree government usually makes its biggest mistakes. [ ….. ] The anti global warming legislation went through with all three party leaderships supporting it. No party asked whether dearer energy was a good idea for the UK economy and consumers, or asked if it might just transfer the carbon dioxide emissions elsewhere as we lost the factories here.”

    Excellent example.
    But why, after the economic consequences, especially in regard to household energy bills, have now become obvious; why, after the scientific evidence now shows clearly that there is neither a ‘c’ nor an ‘A’ in the cAGW; why can this bill not be repealed a.s.a.p.?
    Higher prices for household energy in the form of gas and electricity have already been talked about by British Gas.
    It is time to get rid of this unspeakable bill, for the sake of economic growth. We don’t even ask that Parliament and the party leaders acknowledge their mistake – just repeal this bill and let the EU go pound sand!

    1. Mike Stallard
      May 13, 2012

      Please do read Christopher Booker in the Sunday Telegraph (right at the back in front of Terry Wogan).

    2. oap
      May 13, 2012

      Baroness Worthington has claimed that, before her elevation to the House of Lords, she was a Friends of the Earth activist. She was so active that she was employed by the Department of Energy to help write the first draft of the Bill during Blair`s second term, that eventually became an Act in his third term. Her reward for her efforts was ennoblement. She is also believed to have advised Cameron, at his request, on he line he should take to support the passing on the final Bill into an Act of Parliament. Only three MPs voted against it. Somewhere on YouTube there is a video of her explaining her role in all this.

    3. wab
      May 13, 2012

      “No party asked whether dearer energy was a good idea for the UK economy and consumers, or asked if it might just transfer the carbon dioxide emissions elsewhere as we lost the factories here.”

      Plenty of people outside Parliament pointed this out.

      If and when the UK fails to meet its emissions targets in 2020/2030/2050, who is going to be held responsible? I would suggest that the MPs who voted for this bill should be held responsible, and should in particular have their pensions taken away.

      If this bill is not overturned by a future government, it is quite easy to imagine the situation where in certain cold years in future, come November or December some “environmental” group will go to court to get power plants forcibly closed down because emissions have been too high that year.

      (Of course one of the problems is that the way that emissions are counted is completely bogus, which is why the UK can claim that emissions have declined the past two decades when in fact they have increased, because we have successfully exported a growing percentage of our emissions to China.)

    4. Derek Buxton
      May 15, 2012

      Ah indeed. But you see to take the place of AGCC we now have sustainability spawned by the UN and the EU which briefly states that we in the 1st world must ration energy and water so that there will be more for 3rd world countries. They do not explain of course that this is not how the world works. If we have lots of rain and let it go to waste we are rationed, but that does not provide more water in the Sahara. But then, these are such clever people LOL

    1. lifelogic
      May 13, 2012

      Money to burn as usual.

  13. matthew haynes
    May 13, 2012

    Hi, I remember us going into erm, inflation was high so was our exchange rate. Erm member did have its advantages, helped us bring down inflation. We went in too high, and it cost us because we didn’t have a plan b

    1. lifelogic
      May 13, 2012

      There was no right rate for the ERM – the right rate today is going to be the wrong rate tomorrow.

      1. rose
        May 13, 2012

        Obvious to some of us, but surprising how many influential people still don’t get this simple point!

    2. lifelogic
      May 14, 2012

      Also interest rates might have needed to rise a little at the time but there was no need for an absurd ERM mechanism and DM peg to raise them absurdly to 15%+ margins.

      Just get the Bank of England to raise them.

  14. forthurst
    May 13, 2012

    “So often I have found that when all parties agree government usually makes its biggest mistakes.”

    I tend to find that such agreements represent conspiracies against the English people: to take them to war on behalf of a foreign power, to give their sovereignty away to a foreign power, to destroy their industries by making them uncompetitive, to shut the English up with thoughtcrime laws, (to allow high levels of immigration-ed), to prevent those English people of modest means with bright children being schooled according to their needs, to trash this country in other respects to placate those with an irrational hatred of the English.

    As to PMQ, it serves no discernible function for the governance of Great Britain.

  15. alan jutson
    May 13, 2012

    I do like your Posts on how Parliament works, as viewed from the inside.

    Clearly the so called workings of our democracy has evolved over the years through trials, tribulations, and much argument.
    But we still seem to be missing the mark on so many occassions, in fact we seem to be missing the mark so often, I wonder is it the polititians themselves, or is it the system within which they work.

    Still one big problem on which all Party’s agreed, but seem to have made an error which needs to be put right.


    Just out of interest John, when a new MP is elected, are they given any training or induction as to how the system works, its various rules, traditions, courtesy, etc,

    Are they buddied up with a seasoned pro for a few months.


    Is this when the whips start to get the whip hand.

    Reply: MPs are expected to be fairly independent self starters. Various sources of advice and help are available. There is official Parliament, which offers briefings on how the place works, the whips who stress how well behaved party MPs operate, and colleagues who try to influence them in all sorts of directions!

    1. APL
      May 13, 2012

      Alan Jutson: “I wonder is it the polititians themselves, or is it the system within which they work.”

      It is the politicians themselves! Time was (a long time ago, I grant you) politicians were drawn from the population at large, today we have a population of salaried politicians who put forward their favored candidates from an incestuous little cesspool of their own spawn.

      It is a self referential degenerate festering boil on our democracy.

    2. Geoff M
      May 13, 2012

      I wish you would influence my MP on the said members obsession with the EU. I had heated discussions before the 2010 election but it was quite sad to hear the party line been sprouted out like a robot, at least the said MP follows you on twitter.
      There has been an about turn on the fighter aircraft (harrier mk 2) so perhaps we may be can have another and get all the hereditory peers back and remove the political appointees in the Lords.

    3. alan jutson
      May 13, 2012

      Many thanks for the reply John.

      If find this very interesting.

      Aware that some MP’s would be able to be self sufficient, but am surprised that there is no manditory official induction by those who are responsible for the running of proceedures, house rules, expenses, remuneration, and above all upholding personal responsibilites etc.

      I had assumed a rule book existed and is handed to each new member, is updated from time-time, and then delivered to all members when required, or does no rule book exist.

      If there is no official induction, then surely rules and proceedures for a whole host of things can become blurred over the years.

      For an organisation that is very keen to regulate all of us out here, out of site, I would have thought an initial non partisan induction, would have been the very least to be expected.

      Could this perhaps explain why some MP’s fail at the first hurdle, or behave in an unexpected manner.

      Reply: There are various rule books issued, and various opening courses according to taste of the new MP. It’s more Freshers fair than basic training.

  16. Stewart Knight
    May 13, 2012

    Sorry John, but you are making a vast mistake in just making this a question of conflict or consensus.

    This Labour opposition has nothing to say and has no ideas, so it engaging in total conflict regardless of cost to politics or the country. My experience of peoples views is that they are sick of constant bickering to score points, and Labour make a huge mistake by engaging in this, but more, they are at least partly sick of Government pandering to them as they fight back.

    Watson at Leveson and committee is the perfect example.

    People like conflict when it is constructive, or constructively defensive, but not when it is pure point scoring.

  17. Yudansha
    May 13, 2012

    Collaboration or conflict in the Commons ?

    I’d rather like to see paintballing – without masks, padding or jockstraps. You could have red, blue and yellow dye to indicate who wins the debates.

    Ironically the Coalition would colour the place a rather insipid green.

  18. Michael Read
    May 13, 2012

    Respectfully suggest you give Lord Leveson and Robert Jay a shot with a prosecuting brief.

    None of you lot would escape from your bailiwick of condign propinquity.

  19. david englehart
    May 13, 2012

    my first visit to the house of commons was at the invitation of the then brighton pavilion MP,the seat now occupied by caroline lucas, on the day the commons voted to legalise homosexuality.
    so that dates that a bit !!!
    on the friday before the last bank holiday my wife and i were taken over for a personal tour. the business of the house was finished which meant we were able to wander round more than on a business day.
    it was impressive albeit my joke about was tony blair going to grace the vacant plinth outside the chamber with churchhill and thatcher went a bit flat as i gather there is a train of thought that it could happen.
    the voting lobbies were fascinating including how one is able to vote both for and against thereby apparently making a point.
    i am still not quite sure what point one makes but apparently one does !!
    my local MP did this on the euro referendum vote recently albeit i think JR voted for a referendum as one of the 80.
    what was puzzling was the large gap between the 2 sides of the house.
    we were told it was so that there was insufficient room for opposing MP’s to be able to clash swords.
    is this historically true?
    it is a lovely story but i wondered if it might have been a bit of revenge for my bringing up the thought of tony blair’s statute gracing the entrance to the house.
    neither my wife nor i could fathom out why there were 2 identical sets of pigeon holes for the MP’s on either side of the entrance unless one is for post and the other for phone messages or the like.

    Reply: Voting both Aye and No is a way of abstaining whilst making it clear you were there and are abstaining, not just absent. You might have ben absent but wishing to vote one way or the other.
    There are sword length markings on the carpets as the idea is ti to prevent clashing of swords. People don’t seem to wear them these days anyway.

    May 13, 2012

    Mr Redwood

    I am concerned that the Conservative-led Coalition Government that you are part of, is fast gaining a reputation for Sleaze and Incompetence. I would very much like it, if you Sir could express upon the Prime Minister, David Cameron the gravity of these issues- Labour are going to win the Next Election unless the Prime Minister can up his game drastically and do something tough and radical to prevent Labour etching into the Public’s consciences the term “Tory Sleaze” (this was one big reason why John Major’s Conservative Government was defeated to terribly in 1997). This is one area where dissent and unease should be articulated- but it is potentially so damaging.

    Things must not go on the way they are, because if they do no amount of economic growth will win the Conservatives an election. If the Conservatives are linked as a Party with sleaze and corruption in voters’ minds, Labour will win.

    Labour have also coined the term ” Omnishambles” to describe a string of things going awry in recent months- from the Budget, to the “Jerrycan Scare” over a possible oil strike, to the fact that the Regional Growth Fund is proving to be an expensive White Elephant and also the fiasco of the “Big Queues At Heathrow”.

    The ongoing drip-drip-drip of “Tory Sleaze” via the Leveson Inquiry- particularly over Sir Jeremy Hunt’s alleged collaborations with Rupert Murdoch, and now more allegations about both the Prime Minister and George Osborne’s close relationships with Rebekka Brooks- is all providing Labour with a fantastic run of open goals to widen their poll leads.

    The Tories are now up to 13% adrift in the polls, it is much more than “Austerity” that is putting voters off. Lets face it, after the Emergency Budget in 2010, and after last year’s Budgets the polls were nothing like this bad- even though the electorate knew fine well what was entailed in terms of the “tough austerity measures” there were polls which actually had your Party in the lead- right up until March this year.

    I am not a Conservative voter myself- having switched my allegiance to UKIP some time ago (I believe UKIP reflect a much more conservative position on most issues- particularly on the economy- than the modern-day Conservative Party); that said I do not want to see Ed Miliband get into No. 10 with Ed Balls as Chancellor of the Exchequer!

    I am therefore keen that someone in a position to speak (with a sense of grave urgency) directly to the Prime Minister to urge him to go through all Government Departments asking them to up their games- or else. He should also set up a national “Hit Squads” of competent business/management leaders who would go into poorly-running schools, hospitals, airports, etc; sack the management and take over whilst sorting out employees lower down the ranks and sacking those that dont measure up. The Hit Squads would remain in control of the organisation in question until it has been turned around, and competent replacement staff have been found.

    The Prime Minister needs to be urged (with the greatest seriousness) to deal with Sleaze in his Government. Sir Jeremy Hunt is now damaged goods in the voters’ eyes- he MUST GO. A “Sleaze Buster” must be appointed and he must go through all other Conservative MPs, MEPs and all Liberal Democrat Government Ministers with a fine tooth comb; probing their business activities, social engagements, past criminal records and even recent diaries/emails- if you are in office anything can be used against you by your political opponents.

    If any serious sexual/financial/criminal matters come to light then the MP concerned MUST be relieved of his duties- or if it is serious enough he/she must be booted out of the Party. These are radical proposals, you Sir and your colleagues might baulk at the idea of someone scrutinising all your emails- but the fact is that unless the Conservatives are really willing to make some sacrifices to properly prevent their opponents attaching Sleaze and Corruption to the Party they run a big risk of being wiped out at the next Election- and spending another long period in Opposition.

    In the meantime Sir, I would be delighted if you did a few articles on Sleaze, Corruption and Incompetence- discussing whether these are issues that could seriously damage a Political Party- particularly the governing Party. I think you would be suprised by the response from your readers.

    Ian Pennell

    1. uanime5
      May 14, 2012

      I would recommend that the “Hit Squads” be composed of competent headteachers, hospital managers, and airport managers rather than business or management leaders. Nothing demotivates staff so much as badly thought out ideas by people with no experience in the area they’re advising on.

  21. Neil Craig
    May 13, 2012

    I agree we need more serious and well informed debates. Such debating was the foundation of ancient Greek and Roman democracy , indeed it is difficult to think of a real democracy where such debates were not inherent in the system.

    However “consensus” and parties working together are the antithesis of serious debates. In many ways a strong opposition is more important to political freedom than the sort of government. Regretably, in my opinion, the only party whose leaders are putting forward a strong and credible opposition position to our government are UKIP and necause of our openly corrupt electoral system they are excluded from Parliament.

    There is also the fact that the state owned media (BBC, C4 and to a lesser extent those controlled by Ofcom) absolutely refuse to broadcast any foprmal debates whatsoever. Sometime the BBC, in typical Orwellian manner, describe describe their tame interviewer asking questions if 5 invited speakers, at least 4 of whom agree, as a “debate” but it is no such thing. This is why the BBC is the greatest enemy of democracy in this country.

    1. wab
      May 13, 2012

      To suggest that “the BBC is the greatest enemy of democracy in this country” is ridiculous. It’s not the BBC’s fault that the people running all three major political parties in this country pretty much agree on all issues except in minor ways. The BBC, for all its sanctimonious middle class political correctness, is far better for democracy than Fox “News” is in the US, which has been one of the major cancers eating at US democracy. It seems that Cameron was willing to do a deal with Murdoch to drop the “impartiality” requirement for broadcast media, which would have led to the spread of that cancer to the UK.

      1. Neil Craig
        May 14, 2012

        “.It’s not the BBC’s fault that the people running all three major political parties in this country pretty much agree on all issues except in minor ways”

        I would directly disagree with that. The BBC consistently seek to marginalise any politician, in these parties as well as UKIP who doesn’t support their agenda – John Redwood has several times previously given instances. In the other hand the obsequiousness with which they, so regularly interview “greens” must have considerably enhanced their tiny vote. Worst of all, as I have previously mentioned, is their direct interference in leadership elections – most egergiiously, the way Newsnight faked a “focus group” run by Frank Luntz, an American pollster clearly chosen for his record of questionable polling paractices, which purported to show that David Cameron was, far and away, the most popular Tory leadership candidate and, with continuous pushing from Nick Robinson and other Beeboids took him from “who he” candidare to favourite and then leader. As subsequent events have shown his promised popularity and abiluty to win are not wholly evident but his commitment to the BBC agenda is. There are other instances.

  22. David Langley
    May 13, 2012

    I live too far from Parliament to attend the public gallery, I have sat there once and enjoyed the debate on at the time.
    Now I watch BBC coverage of the house and the committees in Westminster Hall.
    I feel that we are somehow in an unreal situation today when listening and watching the debates, the point scoring and giving way to obviously poorly briefed responders wanting probably some exposure in Hansard and on the Tele.
    The big elephant in the house charging up and down “the EU” is unnoticed, we should be hearing daily how Parliament is going to get its privileges back from the EU. I fantasise about how the Queen gets handed the speech in her opening Parliament address, and ditches it in favour of what she would really like to say in this her Jubilee year. How her position has been demeaned and her constitutional rights given away by a succession of PM,s. How waiting outside is her Loyal Officers and Men of the Guards who are going to take to the tower various of those present. They will be joined shortly by various others from past administrations and all subject to her displeasure!!
    After a short period of reflection new elections will be held and various referenda offered to her subjects for our approval.
    Dream On!

    1. alan jutson
      May 14, 2012


      I do like your dream of the Queens own speech, can you imagine the looks on the faces of all assembled, and the cheering outside as the public see all past ministers dragged off to the Tower !!!

  23. merlin
    May 13, 2012

    I am slowly coming to the view already expressed that the uk parliament is just a talking shop and the major decisions about the future of the Uk region are being decided in Brussels. I regularily read Christopher Booker in the DT only to discover that behind many government policies there is the dead hand of the rotting corpse that is the EUSSR. The complete political picture of the uk is so kafkaesque where all important decisions in the Uk are made by mysterious, unelected european technocrats behind closed doors, it is completely terrifying and disturbing, and no one in the uk government is doing anything about it. I honestly think the political truth is being deliberately witheld from the UK population.

    1. Chris
      May 13, 2012

      I believe you are right. Many people commenting on this issue have actually resurrected the link which gave the instructions to politicians to effectively withhold information about the powers of the European project and how it was behind all the various changes and legislation that were to transform a simple trading group to a very different beast, the EU as we know it today – this in order for the people not to associate the EU with unpleasantness.

  24. uanime5
    May 13, 2012

    I prefer compromise because it prevents one party from forcing through whatever benefits them the most. When they need cross party support they at least need to justify their plans.

  25. WitteringsfromWitney
    May 13, 2012

    “The idea that politicians and parties should seek consensus is popular. Many people say it would be good if parties learned to work together more for the sake of the country.”

    So once again it is all about politicians and parties seeking a consensus among themselves. And just where does seeking a consensus with the people feature in all this?

    “…..there need to be some real differences, to make elections worthwhile.”

    There does indeed need to be some real differences to make elections worthwhile – unfortunately for politicians the differences, or I should say changes, that need to be made are those to our democracy and politics and which would result in politicians losing their privileged positions and the power they exercise and hasten the demise of all three.

    Finally, it should be no surprise to you that most requests to attend Parliament are for PMQs. Where else can one get a free seat to watch adults behaving like squabbling children? And politicians want and expect us to respect them?

  26. Tad Davison
    May 13, 2012

    The local MP for Cambridge, the Lib Dem Julian Huppert, said at the hustings in 2010, that he’d like fuel prices to be higher. That prompted a comment from the floor, ‘You can have my gas bill then mate!’

    It looks as though the man got his way, but where he might have been a part of a concensus amongst politicians, I doubt if he’d been elected if people knew what he really stood for. That goes for many more MPs, except, there appears not to have been an alternative, so the voter was stuffed no matter who they voted for.

    That seems to be the way of it. It certainly is where the EU is concerned. I won’t ever urge politicians to take the middle ground and compromise on important issues, fat lot of good it does me anyway. They seem to do as they please, and not as they’re told. And it doesn’t matter a jot how compelling the case, or how irrefutable the evidence.

    Could that possibly be the reason why most politicians are so vehemently despised?

    Tad Davison


    1. lifelogic
      May 13, 2012

      Yes it could well be.

    2. Bazman
      May 14, 2012

      Already got higher prices. My fuel bill has trebled in the last ten year with no change to anything. Insulation, double glazing, high efficiency boiler and appliances? Done ten years ago. More twatery from Cambridge which is about 20 miles from where I live.

  27. BobE
    May 13, 2012

    Greece will default 10 days time and will leave the Euro.

  28. Archimedes
    May 13, 2012

    Tension is always a good way to extract the truth from an argument, and nothing can deliver tension in the same way a good conflict can. However, why can’t MPs collaborate and create a unified front to say to the public: “We will not collaborate. We must not collaborate. We wanna to be free – to do what we wanna do. And we wanna get loaded. And we wanna have a good time.”


  29. B
    May 13, 2012

    MPs are fools but if Greece does default in 10 days then its just possible we can escape the forth richt. Time will tell

  30. Steven Whitfield
    May 14, 2012

    The terms of acceptable debate are already far too narrow – those that believe we would be better of if political party’s worked together are misguided in my view.

    Since the time of the ancient Greeks, man has recognised that debate and the offering of opposing positions is needed to get to the truth.

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