Opinion: Cameron makes running on Parliamentary reform

We have written before about the mood of anti-politician populism that is growing around the country here.  We argued that one way for politicians to find a way around this was to aggressively take up a constitutional reform agenda and demonstrate change in the way the country is governed.  One way this could be done would be to reform the way government ministers are appointed by, for example, copying the Swedish model of MPs not being government ministers, just experts who accountable to the legislative (for example, why not make Dave Prentis Health Minister?).  Other more old fashioned ideas of reform include proportional representation.

In our piece linked to above, we argued that this populism and associated constitutional reform could be harnessed by the left just as much as it could harnessed by the right.  No one on the left was reading obviously, as David Cameron has today made a move on this issue by calling for the way MPs set their own pay (and that of their staff).  He also called for reforms of the Special Adviser system and for new oversight of ministers.  It is covered in the Guardian, Independent and BBC online

MPs’ financial arrangements are a scandal matched only by the way they are mis-reported by the tabloids.  Their pay is appallingly high, but the real scandal is found in the way staff are treated – arbitrary pay levels, unpaid overtime, unclear and unhelpful management styles.  It makes the Mother of all Parliaments look like an ASBO kid when compared to the modern and effective system of staffing in the Nordic, Australian or US legislatures. 

Reforming the way parliament works would be one (small) way of showing voters we understand their disgust at the way politics works.  The fact that Cameron has been the first to make hay on this should worry Labour strategists.


6 Responses to Opinion: Cameron makes running on Parliamentary reform

  1. The politicians... says:

    change of any kind is morally wrong and should be banned

  2. wozza says:

    succesive Labour cabinets have not given two hoots about doing anything that makes life more difficult for the sitting government (them).

    The liberals have usually got the best ideas on an overall package for constitutional change – but if the tories pcik the right issues to get populists bleating then they will have a winner.


  3. HenryG says:

    O/T Deputy Leader update

    Hills have cut Cruddas to 16/1, Hain out a little at 3s, Harman drifting out to 14s. Hilary Benn is now the 5/2 favourite, which since I’ve not seen any evidence (yet) he’ll stand seems very prohibitive. Still value in Cruddas.

    Remarks in the Independent today suggests he has the support of several big unions. Rumours at Manchester included that Nick Brown was seen with Cruddas and as his namesake Gordon’s key fixer, suggests that he will get the necessary nominations.

  4. Ian G says:

    I’m not sure I’d agree that an MP’s pay is appalingly high. It compares unfavourably even to other senior public sector positions, never mind private sector ones. Of course there are MPs who earn their money and those who don’t, but thats for their parties and the electorate to sort out.

    Of course you’re quite right on MPs staff pay (and no, I don’t work for an MP). To give MPs more and better paid staff would be a drop in the ocean to the public purse, but would make a real difference to the effectiveness of parlaimentary democracy.

  5. Cassilis says:

    The thrust of Cameron’s comments on MP’s pay isn’t the absolute level of it so much as the lack of transparency and independence in the way it’s decided.

  6. Nick says:

    The way MPs’ pay is decided doesn’t exactly help Parliament’s image. But we should be quite clear that the way senior business people have their pay decided is at least as bad.

    And it’s not just the red-tops whose reporting on this is totally irresponsible – I remember once reading an absolutely outrageous “news” report in the Evening Standard saying MPs had awarded themselves a x% pay rise when actually all that had happened was that the staff pay scales had been moved from poverty pay up to a mere pittance – nothing to do with MPs’ pay at all.

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