Tag Archives: house of commons

LDV readers say: pay MPs more!

A month ago, Lib Dem Voice set up a new poll for readers asking the simple question, MPs are currently paid £65k per annum. Do you think they should be paid more than this, the same, or less in the future?

Here’s what you told us:

44% (234 votes) – More than £65k
35% (187) – The same as now
21% (115) – Less than £65k
Total Votes: 536. Poll ran 24 Aug – 13 Sept 2009.

Posted in Voice polls | Also tagged | 3 Comments

NEW POLL: What should we pay our MPs?

Tory MP Sir Patrick Cormack – the grandees’ grandee – isn’t alone in thinking MPs are under-paid. Today’s Times reports (under the oh-so-impartial headline, MPs hijack expenses inquiry with complaints and demands for pay rise – do you remember the days when newspapers reported facts, and let us form our own opinions?) that Sir Christopher Kelly’s Committee on Standards in Public Life inquiry into Parliamentary standards has been

bombarded by MPs’ complaints about their miserable lifestyles, media intrusion, the inadequacy of existing allowances — along with repeated demands for a hefty pay rise. … A detailed analysis by The Times of hundreds of submissions shows that such views are far from exceptional, particularly among Conservative MPs who believe that they would be earning far more if they had never entered politics.

The debate has been well-rehearsed. Gone are the days of amateur MPs, men with means who could afford to regard being elected to Parliament as their public duty and/or an amusing hobby. Paying members of Parliament is an essential pre-requisite of a democracy of all the talents. How much they should be paid inevitably plunges you into the murky realms of envy, greed and compromise.

On a rational supply and demand basis, it is perfectly obvious that MPs should be paid not a single penny more. Political parties in winnable seats have no problem in finding candidates: more people want to do the job than there are vacancies available. It’s an employer’s market, and in this case the employer is the taxpayer: why should we cough up more cash?

Posted in Voice polls | Also tagged , and | 28 Comments

Opinion: How can the Lib Dems use mass media to re-connect Parliament and public?

It has been documented extensively via many different platforms that Parliament and the public are more disconnected in the 21st century than at any time in history – although Parliamentarians have never been hugely popular with those who elect them.

Part of the problem has stemmed from the reduction of parliamentary coverage by mass media outlets. This can be traced back many years to the gradual reduction in the reporting of speeches in broadsheet newspapers. Speeches are now hardly ever published, and parliamentary sketch writers usually focus on specific moments during proceedings – sometimes only the trivial.

However, in order to open up Parliament to the mass media, and therefore the electorate, radical reforms to proceedings need to take place. The problem lies with the fact that many people who care about ensuring that Parliament is a more trusted institution are relatively conservative in nature – even if they are radical in other ways. In an institution where clapping is seen as unprecedented behaviour, you know you have a long way to go.

It is clear that media coverage of politics has moved on far more than Parliamentary reform. Here are two suggestions that could be implemented to bring Parliament in to line with 24 hour media output:

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 22 Comments

Tory council leader accuses Lib Dem MP of smear

The BBC has the story:

A Tory peer referred to the police over expenses says it is part of a campaign of “attacks and innuendo” by an MP. Lord Hanningfield claimed the unnamed MP was determined to “blacken my name” over education policy in Essex, where the peer is council leader.

The frontbencher claimed £99,970 over seven years for the cost of staying in London, despite living 40 miles away.

Lib Dem MP Bob Russell said he believed the peer was referring to him but added he was only interested in the facts. … Colchester MP Bob Russell, who raised Lord Hanningfield’s

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What Nick said to Gordon about political reform

At 12.30 pm today, Gordon Brown stood up in the House of Commons to make what was billed as a “wide-ranging statement on proposed changes to Britain’s constitution and voting system.” As so often, the feature didn’t match up to the trailer. Here’s Nick Clegg’s response, as recorded by Hansard, to Mr Brown’s statement:

Mr. Nick Clegg (Sheffield, Hallam) (LD): I thank the Prime Minister for his statement. Of course everyone agrees that the political crisis requires big changes in the way we do things, so I welcome this deathbed conversion to political reform from the man who has blocked

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LDV Members’ Survey – MPs’ expenses (6): your views about the Speaker

Almost a week ago, LDV emailed those Lib Dem party members signed-up to our private discussion forum inviting them to take part in a survey focusing on MPs’ expenses. Many thanks to the 240+ of you who completed it; we’ve published the results in full on LDV over the last few days. You can catch up with all our past exclusive LDV members’ surveys by clicking here.

1.

LDV asked: Now that the Speaker of the House of Commons, Michael Martin, has resigned a handful of Liberal Democrat MPs have been suggested as the new Speaker. It has

Posted in LDV Members poll | Also tagged , and | 1 Comment

LDV readers say: 85% wanted Michael Martin to quit

Well, y’know, I’m personally convinced that Michael Martin must have been finally convinced to quit when he saw the overwhelming result of LDV’s over-night poll showing 85% of readers thought he should quit now. So much more likely than that the Prime Minister instructed him to resign voluntarily.

Here, for the record,is what you said in response to the question, “Do you think the Speaker of the House of Commons Michael Martin should resign over his handling of the MPs’ expenses row?”

>> 85% (137 votes) – The Speaker should resign now – reform cannot wait until the general election.
>> 9% (15)

Posted in News, Parliament and Voice polls | Also tagged , , and | 4 Comments

CommentIsLinked@LDV: Nick Clegg – Voters’ trust in democracy is shattered. We must restore it

Over at The Observer, Nick Clegg argues, after a tumultuous week in politics, that the public must be given more power than the politicians. Here’s an excerpt:

We are in the eye of the perfect storm: an economic crisis followed by a total collapse of public faith in politicians. One way or another, MPs’ self-serving expenses will now, thankfully, be changed for good. But this must be a moment for fundamental change, not just tinkering to eliminate the worst excesses of the past. The uncomfortable truth is that these revelations are merely the tip of an iceberg – our whole political

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Clegg calls for Speaker Michael Martin to quit

Lib Dem leader has become the first party leader publicly to call on House of Commons Speaker Michael Martin to quit. The BBC has the story:

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has called on Commons Speaker Michael Martin to stand down, saying he has become an obstacle to much-needed reform of Parliament. Mr Clegg said the speaker should do the “decent thing” and step aside, saying he was not the “right man” for the job. He criticised the speaker for “dragging his feet” over the issue of MPs’ expenses, causing such public anger. …

By becoming the most senior politician –

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 10 Comments

Opinion: The gloves are off for the Man in Tights

The House of Commons is an odd place. People try to pretend they don’t know one another’s names even when they do. There’s the curious, formalised sparring by red-faced men who actually quite like each other. And the whole affair is officiated over by a middle-aged metalworker in hosiery, and sometimes a curious wig, referred to only as Mister. It’s like the most surreal fetish party in the world.

Now the first rule of Mister Speaker’s Club is that you do not talk about Mister Speaker. MPs will go on record to criticise their opposing number’s finances, living arrangements, office staff …

Posted in Op-eds and Parliament | Also tagged | 9 Comments

Huhne on Green arrest: “monumental shambles” by senior civil servants

Tory MP Damien Green will not face criminal charges for his alleged role in leaking confidential home office documents, the Crown Prosecutions Service has announced. Menawhile the home affairs parliamentary select committee has found that civil servants exaggerated the seriousness of the leaks, claiming they had caused ‘considerable damage to national security’.

Lib Dem shadow home secretary Chris Huhne has not minced his words:

This is a monumental shambles. It is astonishing that ministers were not consulted, if the Home Affairs Select Committee is right, as they should have realised the political consequences of being seen to harass an

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What can politicians achieve? A Review of the Foothills

Generally speaking political diaries are not best read cover to cover, and certainly not if they weigh in at 590 pages. They are for dipping into, browsing the index, and allowing your eyes to wonder to names, places and events that leap from the text. But (owing to a very long journey) I did consume Chris Mullin’s A View from the Foothills – touted as Labour’s answer to Alan Clark – in pretty much one sitting.

Like all political diaries, it both benefits and loses from its fixation with the moment; if you’re scribbling as and when you get the opportunity, there is scant opportunity for reflection or analysis. What you get instead is an unvarnished of-the-moment description (if the diarist is candid), and colourful and entertaining episodes (if the diarist is talented).

Thankfully, Chris is both candid and talented, enabling me to set to one side his overwheening self-deprecation and occasionally jarring piety (here’s his account of Christmas 2002, chez Mullin: “I did my best to look cheerful, but I find it a deeply depressing experience watching children who have everything piling up new possessions. Such a relief when it was over.” (page 340)).

There are illuminating insights a-plenty – just a handful which caught my eye were:

– an early assessment of David Cameron: “a young bright libertarian who can be relied upon to follow his own instincts rather than the party line” (p. 240). Back then, of course, Mr Cameron was happy to keep an open mind on the legalisation of drugs; nowadays he’s a captive of his right-wing party’s traditional Conservative knee-jerkism.

– a painful glimpse of Clare Short’s humiliating downfall in March 2003, when she was won over by Tony Blair and voted for the Iraq war: “I came across Clare Short in the Library Corridor, looking miserable and much the worse for wear, propped up by Dennis Turner.” (p. 388) It’s an image which poignantly captures her realisation that she had thrown away a credible, radical reputation built over a lifetime in return for a flimsy, meaningless pledge from the master of telling people what they wanted to hear.

– the exposure of Tony Blair’s utter management incompetence: quoting Ken Purchase, Robin Cook’s former parliamentary private secretary: “‘He’s hopeless. A fucking hopeless manager. He hasn’t a clue about managing people. If he was in the private sector, they wouldn’t spit on him’.” (p. 213)

– Lib Dems are pretty much absent, but Colchester MP Bob Russell will have done little to assuage the public’s fears that their parliamentarians are selfless servants with his request that the Home Affairs Committee go on the razzle: “Bob Russell said we ought to have a bit more fun. How about a foreign trip or two?” (p. 215)

– Though Labour-turned-Lib Dem MP Brian Sedgemore earns my admiration for his frank assessment of the virues of immigration: “‘Unless we are worried about the gene pool, what’s the problem? Most asylum seekers are dynamic, hard-working, educated people of the sort we badly need to refresh our ageing, lethargic population.’” (p. 292)

Yet the overwhelming impression from the book – and perhaps the reason this political memoir seems to have captured the zeitgeist – is the clear sense of futility Chris feels about his involvement in government.

Much of his ministerial life seems to be devoted to touring top-class hotels delivering mind-numbingly dull speeches to bored public sector employees at pointless conferences: “To a posh hotel in Mayfair to address 300 sceptical councillors and officials on the wonders of ‘Best Value’, the latest New Labour local government wheeze. The speech, one of Hilary Armstrong’s hand-me-downs, was abysmal … I was simply expected to stand and chant it like a Maoist slogan” (p. 69)

Posted in Books and Op-eds | Also tagged , , , , and | 3 Comments

Jeremy Browne writes… Why I voted against the UK Youth Parliament meeting in the Commons

Yesterday Lib Dem Voice highlighted the vote by MPs to allow the UK Youth Parliament to meet in the chamber of the House of Commons at a time when it’s not sitting. Jeremy Browne and Bob Russell were the two Lib Dem MPs to vote against. In this article for LDV Jeremy explains his position.

The vote on Monday was a free vote on House of Commons business and every Liberal Democrat MP was free to vote how he or she wished. Apart from the party spokesman, I was the only Liberal Democrat MP who attended the overwhelming majority of the debate. I had originally been minded to abstain, but the arguments made on Monday in favour of the Government’s position were so weak that I believed they were unworthy of even this lukewarm endorsement.

I also objected to the Government Chief Whip, on House business, walking into a debate that he had previously not attended, when MPs had been waiting hours for an opportunity to speak, and curtailing the discussion over an hour before it was scheduled to conclude.

As for the issue itself, during the division a Government whip was shouting “For the Youth Parliament that way; against the Youth Parliament that way”. This was a total caricature of the debate, but it is typical of the casual misrepresentation and authoritarianism that Labour also displays when it seeks to frame the decision over a universal DNA database or ID cards as being between those who oppose criminals and those who support them.

I am supportive of the Youth Parliament, and I am even more supportive of young people engaging in politics. It does seem, though, that the case made for this measure – that it will stimulate interest in politics amongst young people across the country – is rather optimistic.

My assessment is that young people are often disengaged for more complex reasons. They see MPs unwilling or unable to address the big issues of our time, such as climate change. They see a Prime Minister make a wholly misleading case in Parliament for going to war without any sanctions subsequently being taken against him. And I suspect that many are suspicious of the sub-Blairite, values-free, empathy-based, empty gesture politics which now also characterises the Conservative leadership and which was, ironically, perfectly exemplified by the motion being discussed.

My reservations about the Government motion were essentially two-fold.

At present, the situation is very clear-cut: everyone elected as an MP can participate in debates in the House of Commons chamber, and everyone who is not elected cannot. In its upholding of democracy, it is a very pure position, and I would be opposed to, for example, Lord Mandelson participating in House of Commons debates.

Now that principle has been breached, I cannot see any consistent case for preventing any group from using the House of Commons chamber for their deliberations. The Youth Parliament has a representative mandate of sorts, but then so does the General Synod, the Muslim Council of Great Britain and the Annual Meeting of the Women’s Institute. So, for that matter, do the executive of UKIP, and many other political groups that might make many MPs feel much more uncomfortable. If we decide to discriminate against them in the future, it will cause understandable resentment.

Anyone with these reservations, including me, is criticised by some people as being a “traditionalist” or “fuddy-duddy”. And I do not doubt that the same criticism would be made if objections were raised in future to television celebrities staging a one-off mock Parliament on Red Nose Day to raise funds for impoverished children in Africa. Who would now dare to object, and risk being aggressively branded as out-dated and out-of-touch?

Posted in Op-eds and Parliament | Also tagged | 10 Comments

MPs decide (eventually) to allow UK Youth Parliament to meet in Commons

The UK Youth Parliament will be allowed to hold a meeting in the House of Commons following overwhelming approval from MPs – after a two-hour long debate. The BBC reports:

The move, which was resisted by a handful of Conservative MPs, will see the chamber being used by non-elected parliamentarians for the first time. Opponents said the Commons would abandon its traditions by agreeing, and set a precedent for other groups.

The Youth Parliament, whose 500 members are aged between 11 and 18, is expected to convene over the summer recess. This summer’s meeting will be a one-off event after

Posted in News and Parliament | Also tagged , and | 12 Comments

David Heath ‘begs to move’

I flagged up last night that yesterday was the Lib Dems’ opposition day in the House of Commons, and that the party used it to stake out its stance on the two biggest topical matters of the moment – Vince Cable spoke of the recession, while Lib Dem shadow leader of the House David Heath advocated the need for constitutional reform to remedy Parliamentary standards. Here’s the motion he begged to move:

That this House believes that the United Kingdom needs and deserves a Parliament that is fit for purpose and free from the taint of partial interests; is

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And in non-snow related Parliamentary news …

As the whole of the south-east (y’know the bit the media lives in) Britain is brought to a grinding halt by the descent of some iced preciptation, rumour had it that the House of Parliament had also shut down for the day. And just think what chaos might have ensued then!

Fortunately, reports of its dearth proved to be exaggerated, and so today’s Lib Dem opposition day has proceeded as planned (though I concede the possibility it might have been slightly overshadowed by metereological events on the news):

(1) Government capital expenditure during the recession; (2) Standards of conduct in

Posted in News and Parliament | Also tagged , and | 1 Comment

Vince condemns “long, shabby and disreputable treatment” of Equitable Life policy-holders

From today’s Times:

One million savers were given an apology — but no promise of early compensation — when the Treasury issued its long-delayed response to the verdict that regulators were partly responsible for the near-collapse of Equitable Life. Although the Treasury confirmed an ex-gratia scheme yesterday, campaigners and MPs condemned proposals to means-test payments.

There was anger, also, at the Treasury’s admission that it could take “significantly longer” than two and a half years before any cash is paid out. Ministers were accused of using “dirty tricks” to put off payments until after the next election. Justifying the delay, Yvette Cooper, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said that the level of official responsibility had still to be decided.

George Osborne, the Tories’ shadow chancellor, decided not to turn up to the debate to grill Labour over its lacklustre response. However, the Lib Dems’ shadow chancellor Vince Cable was on hand to hold the Government to account. And, as ever with Vince’s statements, it’s well worth reproducing in full:

Dr. Vincent Cable (Twickenham) (LD):

I thank the Chief Secretary for her statement. I welcome the apology, and I welcome more guardedly—because we do not yet know the full details—the compensation principle. However, that comes after the long, shabby and disreputable treatment of policyholders. The endless delay and dissimulation have angered up to 1 million of them, many of whom have lost up to half their pension to the extraordinary extent that a period of maladministration that occurred largely under the previous Government has become a massive own goal for this Government. That makes it all the more surprising that the Conservative shadow Chancellor did not think it worth his while to turn up today— Well, I am here.

Posted in News and Parliament | Also tagged , and | 2 Comments
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