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Jerry Hayes

MPs have as much chance of behaving with decorum & good sense as Ann Widdecombe popping down to Boots for a pack of ribbed condoms.

July 6th, 2010 by Jerry Hayes

Just as you think that MPs have returned from planet dosh, hung their heads in shame, self flagellated and forsworn greed forever, they go and do something mind bogglingly, hoggwimperingly, stupid. As a collective herd, our tribunes have about as much chance of behaving with decorum and good sense  as Ann Widdecombe popping down to Boots for a packet of extra ribbed condoms, whilst rolling a spliff on a moist thigh. So today’s brainwave of questioning the  IPSA, the body charged with overseeing the public trough, in secret, is an act of insanity. Firstly, it looks as if they are hiding something. Secondly there is no such thing as a secret in the Commons. Within an hour of this posting there will be leaks. There are two kinds of leak in cases like this. The preener, who wants to show how clever his questioning was and the “outraged” self publicist,who has as much chance as keeping a closed mouth as Ed Balls has of winning a personality competition. The Mail will have a field day.

Apart from the horrors of facing the electorate, nothing concentrates the parliamentary mind more than pay and allowances. To most voters £65k is one hell of a lot of money. To some Members it is the wife’s clothing allowance. But for the majority, it is well below the equivalent caring professions, like GPs and dentists. I accept that this may be regarded as unfair. Yet nobody twisted their arms to get elected. They knew what they signed up for. It’s like moving next to Heathrow Airport and moaning about the planes. The trouble is, they love to grumble and in so doing, seriously piss off the majority of the electorate, who have neither the status nor the cash. Rather than whine about how ghastly the officials are and how they are not being treated with the respect their office deserves, they should have a long hard look at what they do and how they do it.

Although their job is to scrutinise legislation and hold the executive to account, in reality this is just lip service. In Standing Committee government Members are told to keep quiet and let the others have a bun fight. The in built majority usually ensures that the legislation goes though without too much sensible debate. The real scrutiny is left to the Lords. Questions to ministers is really just a game of rat and louse, where the brainy clerks of the Table Office try to squeeze information from departmental officials,  who are equally brainy and try give as little away as possible.  Mercifully,Select Committees appear to have been liberated from the ghastly practice of the last government of packing them with lickspittles and spineless loyalists, who would sell their soul and anyone else’s, for a leg up on the greasy pole. So there is hope that they could return to what they were, fearless fighters for the truth and the abandonment of their tribes.

But the real question that nobody dares to ask, is why do MPs  need such massive allowances for flotillas of case workers, researchers and secretaries? Looking after the constituents’ problems is not difficult provided you have a bit of common sense  and are honest, tenacious and caring. From 1983 to 1997 I ran a very efficient service with my wife as my secretary and a deputy. The workload really hasn’t increased much at all. So what are all these people for? Not research, as the House of Commons library is brilliant and speedy. And if you have a pet subject, there are endless organisations that will supply you with what you need. So what do these people actually do? Write letters? Do surgeries? I hope not. People with serious problems, who have taken the time to either write or queue up, want to see the organ grinder not his spotty little monkey.

Also, the workload is not all that onerous. Constituency correspondence can usually be dealt in just over an hour a day. Be particularly suspicious of MPs who complain they are run ragged. They are not.  Nor overworked.  They just can’t properly organise their day.

Now I suspect I’ll get a fair bit of stick on Thursday, when I roll up on the Terrace for a refreshing lunch. Please understand that I am not saying MPs are lazy or underworked. But they need to have a long hard look at what they do best and what they are loved for; sorting out people’s lives. And do they really,really need all those members of staff?

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