Confessions of a Political Animal

May 27, 2009

No expenses spared

banknotesStudy leave, exams and recuperation now over, the Animal is given to understand that there has been something of a hullabaloo going on in the febrile world of British politics. Before going on to my substantive point, therefore, four quick observations on the whole ‘Troughgate’ merriment.

1) A number of the claims are beyond the pale. There are some MPs from all parties, including my own, who need to go, go now, and go, like, yesterday.

2) We are getting dangerously close to a situation where certain sections of the media and population will denounce any MP with an expenses claim greater than, say, £0.00 as having their snout in the proverbial trough. Yes, there is a collective failure of non-whistle blowing; there is very limited evidence of a collective malaise of greed.

3) If at the conclusion of this mess, we end up with a situation whereby the only people who can afford to be an MP for a non-London seat are those who can privately afford to rent, furnish and run a second property, then democracy in this country will be in a far worse state than it is currently.

4) <Selfish mode> As a former employee of an MP, I am so glad that the feudal, tax-exiled Lords of Brecqhou have probably got my bank account details.</selfish mode> (more…)

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April 17, 2009

A Third Way for MP’s career paths?

parliamentThe Animal has returned from a very successful wildlife watching trip to Badenoch and Strathspey (and before anyone asks, Mr Charles Whelan was not amongst the fauna spotted) to find that there has been something of a hoo-hah over blogs, emails, smears and spin doctors.

My immediate action, having been at the receiving end of plenty of Tory-inspired smears during my brief career in student politics, is to sigh, shrug and mutter “’twas ever thus”. And then to refrain from any further comment.

But one thing stands out from this mess for the Animal is not that the political blogosphere has somehow ‘come of age’ (I’m far from convinced) but that it has confirmed the existence of a new career path for Britain’s politicians: that of MP as blogger. It is a highly risky path, albeit probably no more so than the high-wire route of seeking government office. It is probably also a route with relatively few vacancies in a limited market: but then so are the routes of scrutiny and executive. And it does hold out the possibility of far greater glory, notoriety (and indeed power) than will ever accrue to the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Folding Deckchairs. (more…)

January 13, 2009

Not gerrymandering, but still a bad idea

House of CommonsThe reaction to today’s announcement from David Cameron that an incoming Conservative government would seek to slice off 10% of MPs has been understandably suspicious. After all, the Tories don’t have a great track record with electoral reform: in government the party preserved university seats and business votes and fought against universal suffrage. And the words ‘gerrymandering’ and ‘Dame Shirley Porter’ go together like the words ‘homeless’ and ‘asbestos-ridden tower block’. The Guardian’s article (linked above) is suitably sceptical, while even the Cameron-hugging Evening Standard rather damningly starts its article with the sentence

David Cameron will cut 60 Commons seats and redraw the political map to give the Tories more chance of winning elections [my italics], he revealed today. 

And that was my first reaction to the news as well, with a lot of talk about allegedly over-represented Labour heartlands in inner-cities and Wales seeing their seat numbers slashed. Obviously that would be to Labour’s disadvantage, but the reality is a lot more complex than that. (more…)

October 18, 2008

Early Day Motion Watch #2 – Its the economy, stupid

Back in August we looked at the phenomenon of House of Commons Early Day Motions (those unfamiliar with this particular arcanity might want to look at my original post or more reliably here for enlightenment), or parliamentary graffiti as I prefer to call them, with a promise of regular analysis to come once Parliament returned from the summer recess.

Well, hold your breath no longer, for that moment has arrived. Parliament has now been sitting again for two weeks, largely overshadowed by events elsewhere. In that time MPs, returning flushed with ideas for motions hatched during the long recess, have tabled 143 early day motions, details of which are viewable here (EDM 2143 is the first tabled post-recess). Parliament’s return inevitably leads to a small glut of the most pointless type of EDMs: those celebrating the successes of local sports teams and personalities. Remarkably, however, barring an SNP motion on one particular cyclist, not one parliamentarian has chosen to table a motion congratulating Team GB in Beijing. Local rugby teams, on (more…)

August 26, 2008

Early Day Motion Watch – Part 1 of a continuing series

Filed under: Early Day Motion Watch,Parliament — Political Animal @ 8:04 pm
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It might seem a bit early in the life of this blog to be getting into the obscurities of the House of Commons, but the Animal has always believed in starting as you mean to go on.

There is something about the Early Day Motion that really fascinated me, ever since…well…ever since I worked for an MP who really (and I mean really) liked signing the things. I think the fascination lies in the combination of the utter pointlessness of the whole enterprise and the fascinating insight they give into the minds of our dearly beloved parliamentarians.

A quick bluffers guide to the Early Day Motion (or EDM henceforth). They have been very acurately described as ‘parliamentary graffiti’ – basically they allow your backbench MP to scrawl Joe Bloggs MP ♥ Post Offices on the toilet wall. Then every other MP (except, by convention, members of the government) gets the chance to add their name, just to prove they love Post Offices as well. And then…well nothing really. These motions are never debated or voted on (although they technically call for a debate at ‘an early day’). They sit, largely unnoticed and unloved on a Parliamentary Database. Very occasionally, on very contentious issues, they serve as a warning sign to the governing party that MPs beyond the awkward squad are concerned about a proposed policy. If enough moderates appear, there may be concessions. This happens perhaps once or twice a year (or with a nervous enough Prime Minister, once or twice a week) – yet over 2000 EDMs are tabled every year. (more…)

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