Where are the rebel MPs who will dare to vote from the heart?
We need Members who defy party pressures and go with their conscience.
by Boris Johnson, 29 June, 2009
We need a Parliament of rebels Photo: PA
|The political class of this country are like the passengers of a Russian sled, hissing late at night through the moonlit forest. The ponies are exhausted, and behind them the wolves are in full cry.
|One by one the leaders of all parties are hurling their colleagues over the back, in the hope of placating the ravening pack. Tory grandees, Labour Cabinet ministers – no one is safe. Now, in an act of political brutality not seen for 300 years, the terrified MPs have turned on Mr Speaker himself, and with a fearful Glaswegian oath the substantial form of Michael Martin has thudded into the snow.
|There is a brief, sickening pause. The eyes of the MPs strain into the dark. Has it worked? Have they bought themselves time? Will they get away with it? Of course not: because the wolves are on their trail again, teeth flashing, their muzzles red in the moonlight, and the slow truth is beginning to dawn across Westminster.
will not make it. This Parliament is finished. Gordon Brown leads the
majority party in a House of Commons that has lost the moral authority
to govern the country. How can Parliament raise more taxes when the toiling
voters have seen the duck houses and the plasma screens bought with taxpayers'
|How can Members call on the courts to punish benefit cheats when they have so manifestly cheated themselves? How can they sit there and pass a single law when it looks as though some of them may have broken the laws against fraud and theft? They can't. It's over. They must go to the country, and I don't mean to their second homes in the country.
|We must have a general election by October at the very latest. We must have a new Parliament, with a new type of MP, and that means looking at what is wrong with our democracy. The real crime is not the expenses system; it takes place at 10pm on weekday evenings, when MPs arrive in the lobbies, taxi receipts in their pockets, lipstick on their collars, purple claret stains on their teeth.
|They file through the lobbies to vote – and what are they voting on? Nine times out of 10, they haven't a clue. All they know, because their BlackBerrys tell them, is whether the whips want them to vote Aye or Nay; and so they shuffle obediently on and then, with a fatuous sense of a job done and a public served, they return to their dinners or the yielding arms of their companions of the evening; and yet another unnecessary and ill-drafted law prepares to enter the statute book; and the put-upon people of this country will be chivvied or taxed or cajoled or coerced in some new way by MPs who have only the vaguest understanding of what they have done.
|I have lost count of the number of times I have sat through debates, after which my colleagues have begun their speeches with the words, "This has been an excellent debate", and I have wanted to shout, "No! It hasn't been remotely excellent.
|"It has been a collection of cut-and-paste Lego-brick speeches in which people have been speaking not from the heart or direct knowledge of the issue, but because the whips have suggested it would be a good idea to speak."
|So here is my recommendation to the angry people of this country as they prepare to close on their MPs in a final flurry of fur and fang.
|It looks as though the next election will involve a massacre of MPs on a scale not seen since 1945. In terminating the Parliament of 2009, some might be tempted to call it the Rump Parliament, on the grounds that they have grown fat and sat on their behinds. That would not be fair. They have been frantically busy passing laws at the behest of an over-mighty executive, with hardly a clue as to what they have been doing.
|We don't need a constitutional convention. We don't need to contemplate proportional representation, since that will only intensify the power of the party machines and create even more lobby fodder. We want a new breed of MPs who will consistently tell the whips to get stuffed; who will smash the brutal and intellectually enervating system of party discipline that turns Westminster into a kind of Seventies Leyland car factory, apathetically turning out badly assembled laws to plague the people of this country.
|We need far fewer laws and far fewer MPs (400 would do fine). My advice to constituency parties is not to hire candidates unless they promise two things: to read every line of every Bill they are called upon to pass; and to vote according to their conscience, and not according to the wishes or orders of the whips.
|That may gum
up the machinery of law-making, and that would be all to the good. It may
make it impossible for Parliament to produce yet another annual Criminal
Justice Bill. It may make it more difficult for MPs to produce yet more
laws telling teachers, doctors, nurses and other public
servants how to manage their vocations.
|If we had fewer MPs, and they were forced to concentrate on what they were actually doing, we would have much less legislation, and I can't think of a better way of saving us all time, trouble and money.
|We need a Parliament of rebels, and we need it now.
|M.P's falling off sleds is such a nice analogy....
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