Monday, August 30, 2004

Herron puts Cats Amongst Pigeons

Under-used MPs should be given a proper job
Aug 30 2004
By The Journal

Is there an alternative to a Regional Assembly if we are to achieve the delivery of more self-determination in the North-East? North East No Campaign Director Neil Herron says there certainly is.

During a recent debate in the Commons to discuss the number of MPs we elect, the Liberal Democrat Andrew George estimated 150 of the 659 MPs could well be given the chop.

His reasoning was it would save substantial money because much of their work has been handed over to Brussels, or to assemblies in Scotland, Wales, and London.

Now it has become unclear even what MPs think they are there for, other than authorising taxes on us and fixing pay rises for themselves.

But we have to watch Mr George and what he is really up to. He wants to see the "Europe of Regions" in place, which means doing away entirely with meaningful national parliaments.
Weakening Westminster by reducing the number of MPs is an essential part of that package.
However, he has a point in asking whether we need all these people now that they have given away most of the work we elected them to do.

It was unusual to see so many North-East MPs in favour. Are they wanting a three-day week?
Contrary to Mr George's wish, it is vitally important we maintain a strong parliament.

A strong parliament is most likely to give us good governance, a weak parliament bad one.

There must be enough MPs to provide an adequate stock of leadership talent, even if there is not an abundance of it now.

The main political problem in Britain today is reconnecting the electorate with the ballot box.
Voting gimmicks and desperate attempts to increase the turn-out are not the solution.

More enfeeblement of Westminster could only advance its divorce with the voter.

Nevertheless the question remains: "How can the seeming excess of MPs be used productively and parliament strengthened at the same time?"

The "Yes Campaign" and its supporters continually state the "No Campaign" is negative and has not come up with something positive.

Well, perhaps there is a positive alternative, because the answer is staring us in the face given the MPs' regional responsibilities as well as constituency duties.

The present arguments for English regionalisation are largely fraudulent, divisive and destructive.

The Prescott plan requires us to turn out to vote for new people and for new elective assemblies. The electorate knows it has too much worthless government already.

It will turn its back, having recognised that these assemblies have no real power and will simply be talking shops.

Instead, if members were sitting MPs, the position of the assemblies would change immediately. They would then carry enormous clout.
Unlike Prescott's version, where the elected assembly representatives are virtually powerless, MP assemblymen and women would also sit in the Commons. This makes all the difference.

For genuine regional issues (as, for example, the dualling of the A1 and relocation of Government Departments), these MPs could work out a cross-party consensus, fixed before the party whips can get at them.

Prescott's elective assemblies could not start to do any such thing.

And why should our MPs not form the regional assemblies?

We already vote for them and they have done away with much of their previous workload, so they cannot claim to be overworked.
MPs are quite close to the electorate and also face deselection or defeat.
Their performance in a Regional Assembly over things that are of immediate consequence to us in the North-East would give us a much better grasp of what sort of people they really are.

This could be the start of real "Bottom Up" democracy, the revival of parliamentary democracy and the breaking of the parliamentary party stranglehold.

And the big plus . . . it would save us much money.

No need for a new building.

No need to raise the Council Tax to pay for the running costs.

No "extra" elections.

No need to create another raft of politicians, their apparatchik and new salary commitments.

Who cannot want all this?

Despite all the fizz and splutter of the regionalists, the genuinely regional issues are few.

The current unelected regional assemblies make do on only three plenary sessions a year.
MP-assemblies, or Select Committees, might well elect for monthly sessions and listen to representations in regional sessions across the region.

The voracious and burgeoning secretariats of the current unelected assemblies could be pruned right back.
The cascade of worthless seminars, and workshops beloved by factotums and fellow travellers would be cut off.

We could start reducing on the 354,000 new public servants that have been appointed since 1997.

And, at the next election, there may be candidates standing with a regional and local agenda.
This would ensure incumbent MPs will have to be aware that a lot more people are watching what they are up to.

I think this would spice up North-East politics.

Once the electorate realise they are in control - and really have the power to change things - we may end up with a better standard of political representation.


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