David’s paucity of ambition

David Cameron is talking this lunchtime, the news tells us, of his plans to reform Parliament by removing subsidised meals and shaving 5% off the pay of ministers.

Danny Alexander MP, Chief of Staff to the Leader of the Liberal Democrats is a) unimpressed and b) unfamiliar with the concept of run-on sentences:

There is a good argument to be made for cutting the cost of politics, the Liberal Democrats have proposed reducing the number of MPs by 150, but if the Conservatives seriously hope to convince people they are fit to govern it is time they stopped dodging the tough questions.

The Liberal Democrats have proposed not renewing Trident, David Cameron wants to increase the price of salads. While it’s nice to finally have some concrete proposals from the Conservatives, at this rate it would take them several centuries to balance the books.

David Cameron claims to want to cut spending but refuses to tell anyone how he hopes to achieve it. The Conservatives need to stop insulting our intelligence and set out what they really believe.

While we’re on the topic, let us not forget a post by Will Howells, formally of this parish, but writing on his own blog in January. He lines up the ducks to show that David Cameron’s proposal is significantly less ambitious than Tory policy under Michael Howard in 2004. And yet still less ambitious than the Lib Dem policy which would remove two-and-a-half two-and-a-half times more MPs from the books than the Conservatives.

Thanks for the correction!

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  • I think you meant ‘two and a half times more MPs’, unless our policy is to slice an honorable member in half.

  • I’m not sure I can see the point in cutting lots of MPs on cost grounds. The amount saved will not be huge, and if it results in parliament being less effective it’s not worth it. Of course, if it results in a more effective parliament then it’s worth doing even without the cost saving, but I don’t think it would.

    Unless there are also measures to reduce the number of MPs with government posts, reducing the number of MPs would increase the proportional size of the payroll vote and so reduce the ability of parliament to be a check on the government.

  • Andrew Duffield 8th Sep '09 - 4:21pm

    How about shaving 100% off the unearned capital gains from MP’s second homes?
    Worth a bit more to the taxpayer than the paltry sums that Desperate Dave is bigging up.

  • Simon Titley 8th Sep '09 - 4:50pm

    The Lib Dem policy of cutting the number of MPs is fatuous. It was never a properly thought through policy anyway, just a marketing man’s gesture chucked into ‘Make it Happen’ last year, purely for effect.

    If the number of MPs were cut by 150 (i.e. from 646 to 496), it would increase the number of voters in each constituency by about 30%. The quality of representation would decline for negligible financial gains.

    And why 150? It sounds like a round number plucked out of thin air. One might just as well argue for a cut of 93 or 142.

    Of course, if there were thorough constitutional reform such that the UK acquired a federal system of government, with powers currently held at Westminster devolved to regional assemblies, then there would be a case for reducing the size of the Commons commensurate with its reduced duties. But right now it’s just gesture politics, a chronic case of hair-shirtism intended to appease the anti-democratic sentiments of the tabloids.

    There’s a stronger case for cutting the number of marketing men in the leader’s office.

  • To cut the number of MPs to 496 AND reduce the payroll vote has some serious implications.

    E.g. Cornwall has 5 MPs (to be six at the next election) That would be down to 4 elected under STV.

    The minor parties (SNP, DUP,PC) would have 30-40 MP’s

    A Governemnt with a bare majority 250 MP’s will still have the same yes minister dilemma – 1/3 to old or failed, one third too new and not ready leaving 1/3 to fill 80-90 Government posts.

    If reducing the payroll vote means reduing it as a proportion of MPs – say to just 50 -60, then taht is a big change.

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