Tuesday, 5 February 2013



You hear the cries about politicians:

"We elect them to do what we say!"

And a host of variations on this theme.

These cries are wrong. And it is important that we understand why they are wrong - it's not because we aren't democratic or that it's anything to do with the modern idea of the political party. No, it's because we choose a representative - someone to go down to Westminster (or in my case Bradford City Hall) and make decisions on our behalves.

We don't instruct such a person (although he would be wise to listen and on occasion consult) nor is he a delegate, sent there with a limited mandate. What we have done is entrust the politician with our votes - the votes we would have had in some sort of 21st century agora. And we cannot know at the point of choosing our representative quite what all those votes will be, we are unable to predict every bill, every amendment and every committee debate or discussion. We have to trust that the person we choose will act in our interests - or in what he honourably sees as our interest.

None of this is about spending time in the constituency (although time spent there when parliament is in session is time the MP spends not doing his job), nor is it about the whip or the manifesto. It is quite simply that no system could be created that allowed all of us to "have our say" on every little item before MPs or to vote in every division. Even in these days of whizzing technology, of the Internet and the smart phone, the idea that all the thousands of votes - let alone the work on committees - could somehow involve us all is a nonsense.

In describing this situation - one that has been the case since Simon de Montford's first parliament - I have been careful to avoid the word democracy. Indeed, in the strictest of senses our system is not democratic, other than at the moment when we chose the men and women who will represent us. People try to pretend that democracy is about more than debating and deciding together - it is not, that is absolutely the whole point of democracy.

I am a representative. I vote firstly according to my conscience, then on what I understand to be the interests of those who chose me and lastly in consideration of the advice given me by my Party. And, when the day of democracy comes, those I represent have the chance to chose someone else should that be their wish.

In the meantime I will say what I think right and vote accordingly.


1 comment:

Steve Wintersgill said...

No doubt heartfelt stuff Simon, but it does serve to highlight the entire problem with the manner in which the country is run.

We have a system wherein a majority of parliamentary candidates are elected on the basis of nothing more than the colour of their rosette, oftentimes they have never lived in the constituencies they purport to represent and on any issue of genuine importance can be relied on to vote in the manner in which they are instructed by their party/whip.

With this being the case is it any wonder that, as a population/people, we are becoming increasingly disillusioned with the entire process and can it then coma as any surprise if and when the level of disrespect for the decisions made by this non-representative groups reaches such a level as to make their continuance utterly untenable?

I realise and accept that in the above I've offered nothing by way of an alternative, however, recognising the problem is the first step to finding a solution.