Members of Parliament; those we elect into the great house have not fared well in recent years. The expenses scandal, which broke highlighted how, many use Westminster as a gravy train claiming expenses to maintain moats, fix roofs, buy their dog food and on we go.
The problem today is the system in Westminster incentivises people to get re-elected, instead of doing what needs what is right for the electorate. Follow this link to read what allowances British MPs have at their fingertips.
As a result, professional politicians, engage their role for gain rather than following a genuine desire to participate in public service. They like the power of the office, which they are reluctant to surrender. When the election comes around they give the electorate the same old same old; promises and more promises to do what is right for the communities. Of course, when they are re-elected and step back inside the hallowed halls of Westminster they are bombarded from all sides by special interest groups who want the attention of your MP to promote debate, further, an ideal which benefits no-one (but there is money in it). Westminster becomes a symbiotic gathering of pressure groups, journalists searching for scandal and finally MPs who strut around the place lending an ear to those who don’t care while ignoring the needs of the people who placed them there.
So, is the time right to get rid of the professional politician? That may be easier said than done. In getting rid of the present bunch, we only replace them with trainee professional politicians. In other words, we change the faces but not the lust for power and the temptation of corruption. The fact is if we want real change the entire system from top to bottom must change. After that it no longer befits any MP to consider pursuing a long time career in politics. Get rid of incentives, lobby groups and any other organisation, which thinks it is right that parliament supports minority interests.
The most natural step and the one in my judgment most likely to have an impact are to impose term limits. I appreciate the benefits of continuity, and that there is a certain amount of expertise that’s helpful in the legislative process.
If public service is of interest, the salary and benefits should not be your first consideration when standing.
The point of anyone standing is for the good of the people who elected the MP. I would suggest that to stand there should be a few stipulations.
- The selected Prospective Parliamentary candidate should be from the area they represent
- They have previously been active in community programs and be aware of the problems or concerns of the community
- They should have no less than ten years working experience
- They can stand for no more than two terms
- While in office they are responsible for decisions regarding the budget, in other words, they cannot spend or borrow money to fund ideological causes but can support community causes
- That at least twice a year the electorate will be able to vote on referendums to democratically decide on issues, which affect the population
- Any MP committing fraud or found to be a party to fraud can be subject to trial by jury
- To meet transparency and to keep check on expenses that the local constituency funds the salary of the MP
Enacting term limits on MPs will not only require a policy change but will change the face of British politics. Some of the knock-on effects will be the diminishing and severely disrupted relationships between Lobby Groups and MPs. Lobby Groups will need to work harder to create and seek new relationships with ever changing faces. It also means that Lobby Groups will be less able to influence MPs who can only stand for two terms.
Some might argue that imposing term limits; we lose the continuity of the professional politician’s experience. However, is that not the point of the non-partisan civil service? The expertise of permanent Civil Servants who have served at the highest levels with a variety of ministers and prime ministers over many years should be providing unbiased advice and support.