You have given thought to the way in which we select MPs in the UK and suggested that we might exchange some ideas about their role and the qualifications that they should have to enable them to carry out their work.
In 2017, Professor Meg Russell @ConUnit_UCL and @DanielGover published their book “Legislation at Westminster” concluding that parliament works better than it is given credit for in having an impact on policy development but there is plenty of room for improvement.
On 15 November 2017, a seminar was held in parliament to discuss their findings, during which David Natzler, Clerk of the House of commons said, “Most members of the UK parliament do not come to Westminster expressly to legislate, but to support their parties.”
In http://www.parliament.uk “What do MPs do?” it says that MPs work in parliament to support their parties. I can find no definition of MP’s duties and responsibilities as legislators. This seems odd to me and I feel that, before the way in which MPs are chosen is considered, serious thought should be given to what exactly they should be asked to do as legislators; how their duties and responsibilities should be defined.
Of course, that is a potentially complex task that must be undertaken by constitutional experts but, in simple, layman’s terms it seems to me that measures should be taken to make it clear that MPs are, first and foremost, independent lawmakers. And in that capacity they should not be told what to do by a small number of political party managers. On behalf of all their constituents (not just the members of their local party associations) and in the interests of the country as a whole they should be able to consider all the facts surrounding a particular issue and vote freely according to their consciences. The facts should be presented to them, together with the pros and cons of viable options, by an independent civil service.
When we consider the complexity of modern day issues, the task facing our legislators in parliament and the associated responsibility is awesome. And, it follows that those chosen to represent us and make laws on our behalf should be of the very highest quality, highly respected, beyond reproach and thereby trusted by all of us as citizens. In all probability suitable candidates will:
- Be very well educated, probably with a first class degree(s).
- Have demonstrated success in a professional capacity.
- Have sufficient professional expertise and experience to return to a professional career after serving as a lawmaker if necessary, thereby ensuring complete freedom of thought.
- Be of sound, well balanced character, capable of objective thinking and not ideologically biased.
All of these characteristics, but particularly the latter, are subjective and the question arises, “who should do the assessment and compile a short list of prospective parliamentary candidates (PPCs) who might be put before the electorate?”
As Isabel Hardman has pointed out in her book “Why We Get the Wrong Politicians”, there is a strong case for finding a better process for the selection of PPCs. It should not be left to a tiny number of people on political party panels.
Once again, this is a complex subject that should be examined by constitutional experts in due course, but there might well be a case for establishing a system (supervised by a reformed Electoral Commission(EC) with new powers) whereby aspiring PPCs make application initially to the EC in their own right, not as representatives of a particular party or organisation. After vetting by the EC (necessary to ensure good character and the capacity to handle sensitive information in due course) a suitable number of candidates might then be put before a citizens panel that would, in turn, produce a short list of candidates to be put to the electorate. Then the short list might be sent by post to those on the electoral role together with the CVs of the candidates. There should be the opportunity for voters to put questions to candidates in writing but there should be little need if any for widespread campaigning which we know can be manipulated.
We know by now, I think, that dirigiste or command economies do not work, individual and group needs are too complex to be managed by highly centralised states. At the same time we know that markets are not perfect and if they are not regulated to some extent they can descend into chaos. In the UK, we can also identify the major problems that we face, and have to be managed, such as the establishment of a sustainable health and care system. So we can see that those we choose to address these issues in parliament have no need for old ideologies of the left and right but they need to be the best brains that we can find to consider relevant facts, objectively, on our behalf before reaching a consensus and setting out viable plans for the future.
The Brexit crisis has demonstrated, for all to see, that the UK’s governmental systems are failing to address the issues of the day. Parliament has become dysfunctional. Part of the fix is to ensure that we have the right politicians functioning properly as legislators in parliament and it is to be hoped that an appropriate assembly of experts will be able to consider the issue before making recommendations for reform of the MP/Legislator selection processes that are now needed.