Saturday, May 30, 2009

The 'job-for-lifers'

When I made the Reselect.org site public on the 19th May with a post on the Liberal Conspiracy site, and another one on Common Endeavour, the sentiments behind it were reasonably well received.

Here (paraphrasing) are some of the criticisms

  • “I actually like my prospective parliamentary candidate - and they are above reproach by comparison with the worst MPs”
  • “Surely this will lead to a wave of populism that will swamp the positive sentiment behind the idea?”
  • “I don’t want to join any of the parties - it’s their policies I object to”

To these, I’d offer a few comments. Firstly, I wouldn’t for a moment suggest that every constituency party of all of the major parties should hold a wholesale reselection.

But there are also a large number of MPs who have not acquitted themselves particularly well over the past few weeks (and, it seems, over many years) who were not expressly guilty of the worst offences against propriety.

These may be MPs who have safe seats, and who have never shown themselves to be particularly responsive to their constituents - secure in the knowledge that they have a job for life. They may have originally been parachuted into the seat that they occupy. They may be people who have not broken the parliamentary rules, but have behaved in a way that is hard to justify to their local constituents.

Under the current electoral system, there are too many job-for-lifers. This is what the reselect.org idea can address.

Many of the constitutional ideas that are flying around at the moment - electoral reform, recall of MPs, celebrity white-suits as MPs, and so on, seem to ignore the real problem with Parliament: That our political parties have all ignored the arrogance of some of their least-effective MPs.

In addition, for all of the failings of political parties, I’d argue that they are still the least-worst way of organising a liberal democracy. They are the only real tool that can protect the the majority of people that don’t have the time, energy, commitment or vested-interests to be active in politics from the whims of newspaper proprietors or the time-rich. 

I’ve outlined this argument elsewhere here. I’d argue that our most pressing task is to reinvigorate the rottenest most inactive political parties. I suspect that there are a number of MPs or Parliamentary Candidates that have been….
  • less than honest in their dealings with Parliamentary expenses
  • parachuted into a local constituency to represent people with whom they have little in common
  • inattentive because they regard their ’safe’ seat as a sinecure
When the initial wave of revulsion dies down, I believe that it is these MPs, and these moribund local political parties that will fall under the public spotlight. It is these constituency parties that will be very easy to grow, and it is there that the reselect.org idea may take off.

Political parties have the potential to rescue democracy. It’s up to us to ensure that they start doing so before it’s too late. So, can you name any job-for-lifers, or moribund local constituency parties (from any of the major parties) that need a challenge?

This article is cross-posted on the Reselect.org blog

1 comment:

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