Douglas Carswell, MP for Harwich & Clacton, reviews the week that was in the House of Commons.
On Monday, the House of Commons debated Culture, Media and Sport. Or rather, that is what the order paper said we were discussing. Quite why politicians think they have much to contribute culturally is beyond me.
Margaret Hodge, who claims to be in charge of our culture, boasted that the arts are doing fine because government funding “has already increased by 73 per cent in real terms”. There is so much presumption in that statement, it is difficult to know where to begin. She appears to see "more government" as good in itself. How did Shakespeare manage?
Interestingly all three of the Conservative frontbenchers in the debate are from the 2005 in-take. Jeremy Hunt (South West Surrey) is clearly head and shoulders above many an MP. His debating style means he comes across as utterly reasonable, yet sound. He made the point that all the recent scandals mean that TV in Britain does not need more regulation, but “better observance of existing regulations”.
James Purnell, the Minister, looked pedestrian as he trotted out the predictable line about the need for yet more regulation: Hunt 1 , Purnell 0
Andrew Rosindell (Romford) then asked Tessa Jowell, who claims to be running the olympics these days, if more could be done to ensure that the Queen’s diamond jubilee is not overshadowed by the games. Bravo, Andrew!
Maybe the way to ensure that the jubilee is a success, and not overshadowed by the olympics, would be to leave Tessa in charge of just the games.
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday saw the Commons debating ….. um ….. well, not much really. In fact, the Commons took a week’s holiday.
That’s right, a week after announcing that MPs cost the taxpayer £87 million in annual allowances, they took off.
Some colleagues might regard me as a traitor for pointing all this out. And perhaps they were indeed all working terribly hard back in their constituencies. It could be that one day the website TheyWorkForYou.com will start to use satnav technology so we can keep tabs on our MPs’ whereabouts. Looking at the satnav screen during recess this week, would we have seen dots scattered evenly across Britain, as MPs held their local surgeries. Or would there be clusters, around, say airports?
I do not think anyone would seriously begrudge MPs their allowances or holiday arrangements, if they did a good job in return. The House of Commons is indeed very good at churning out headline grabbing laws, but does it hold the executive to account?
The truth is that this week, or any week, the Commons is monumentally useless at holding government to account.
Would the Commons be any better if there were more Conservatives in the Commons? Obviously I think so. Yet, then we would be the executive, and it would be up to people like Margaret Hodge – who appear to like Big Government – to hold government to account.
Listening to what little debate there was in the Commons this week, I think we need to change more than just which side of the chamber we sit on. We need radical change in the relationship between government, the Commons, and the people.