What is the mind-set of the newly elected MP? Do they imagine that they, personally, having gone through the high street, and from door to door, bestowing a few seconds – a rictus smile – and a fleeting handshake on a thousand or two at best, that they are elected by their constituents on personal merit?* More poignantly, do they see themselves as leading their flock?
Stepping back: what is in the prospective candidate’s mind – particularly the “any constituency will do; preferably a safe seat” variety? Clearly they have in mind to represent the party to the people rather than to serve the people in the process of government.
This is hardly an enactment of democracy – “government, ultimately, by the people”.
Surely local representation should be by a locally established, known and respected individual, selected by the voters and not pre-selected by any party. What a political party looks for in a “rosette-stand” candidate is far removed from what ordinary (non activist) voters would prefer. There is a mistaken belief that politics cannot work without parties. This is, when scrutinised, completely unfounded and has no validity in democratic governance.
Returning to the mind-set question: anyone offering to serve a party, as a party MP, (as opposed to serving a constituency as its MP) is prepared to sign up to all the iniquities of party politics. Why? I contend that party politics is not about total allegiance to the voters of any one constituency, let alone an honourable attempt to bring their needs and aspirations to the halls of governance; it is concerned with the exercise of power. To me, the two ideals of personal power and self-sacrificing representation of the under-empowered, seem diametrically opposed. It follows that Parliament is largely inhabited by the “wrong kind of MP”; hence the trains of political thought don’t run properly.
A mix of fascination with power, ambition, and loyalty to a group, seems to suit the “winning is all” mentality. Another win-or-lose arena is Law, in its adversarial (gladiatorial) aspect, as practised in Britain. It comes as no surprise to find a lot of lawyers in our gladiatorial politics. What troubles me is that barristers seem, at best, to be amoral. They concern themselves with winning, even if it means a terrible injustice is done. To defend the indefensible – and win – brings status and approval in the realms of Law. Small wonder then, that the indefensible is sometimes avowed policy for this or that political party. Having installed a swathe of atypical humanity into the various groups, with their trade-mark colours, we are powerless to prevent them from further distilling their strange attributes in anointing those who come to occupy the higher offices of state (and their aptly titled “shadows”). Yet more distillation, in the party of power, will turn one officer into a Prime Minister – but rarely a gentleman. Multiple distillation yields a rich, colouful essence of all that is terrible in British life.
One further demonstration of that “up with which” the MP mind will put, is the puerile bear-pit of “Prime Minister’s Questions”, in the House of Commons.
It would be an un-passable test of forbearance for any grown-up person to be present at, let alone part of, that unproductive circus, without manic protest. But do our MPs protest? For PMQs we select the right kind of MP, and it is a ringing indictment that the chamber is never more full than when that ridiculous charade is to be enacted.
*Footnote: It is true that a party-aligned MP can, nevertheless, gain stature as an individual over years of service but rarely do they see fit to unpin the rosette and stand as an independent; even more rarely do they then get elected. This is definitive.