Phoenix rising?

Baroness D'Souza

The Phoenix bird of Egyptian mythology rose many times with youthful freshness from the ashes of its own self-destruction .  Do you think that Parliament might also achieve this emblem of resurrection? If not, it won’t be for want of trying.

Certainly, never has Parliament reached such levels of disrepute but neither have there ever been so many efforts to recover. We have had independent enquiries, reports, committees, sub-committees, police investigations and finally cases referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions. The cynical amongst you may feel that nothing much has changed or will change. I think this is quite wrong.

The temptation is to make a clean sweep – to get rid of everything that offends, to get back to basics (whatever this means), to punish the recalcitrant . In other words to have radical and fundamental change. Much of this is fuelled by the media which is tasked with holding governments and all its institutions to account but which, one hopes, is also fair and balanced. To my certain knowledge the press have deliberately (by which I mean in spite of irrefutable information to the contrary) chosen to villify individuals and to err on the side of salacious reporting thus ignoring some of the attempts outlined above to reform Parliament.

Radical reform precisely because its effects cannot be guaranteed is a risky business. The UK Constitution has progressed over hundreds of years incorporating bit by bit ever more democratic practices in terms of legislation and its execution. This is what is happening now and the eventual effect will very probably be profound.

I wonder if there is a section of the public that recognises the need for gradual and doable reform and perhaps sees that this is what the parliamentary authorities are trying to achieve?

17 comments for “Phoenix rising?

  1. William Blakes Ghost
    21/02/2010 at 4:20 pm

    I wonder if there is a section of the public that recognises the need for gradual and doable reform and perhaps sees that this is what the parliamentary authorities are trying to achieve?

    Not if this vacuous nonsense is an example of the quality of our Parliament of party flunkies and has beens. Better wipe the lot away and start again if this is anything to go by.

    And if we return the Tower of London to its former purpose we will have somewhere to relocate those displaced by what is clearly such essential, if radical, reform!

  2. 21/02/2010 at 4:34 pm

    Parliament has been the arbiter of its own disgrace and downfall. Yes, people can see sensible things being done to restore trust, the issue, is that confidence and trust in Parliament’s ability to self regulate has disappeared.

    The costs of the additional measures are another issue, business manages financial affairs and even in the Civil Service is on a Risk Management basis – perhaps some of these ideas might be tried. The failure to meet standards of propriety in business are normally loss of an income and or criminal action being taken. Members of the two houses, should be subject to a similar management regime.

    I agree that change in reaction to the crisis that Parliament found itself in, is not a good idea – but reform is needed to restore trust and confidence that Politicians are there to serve the country, not just to line their pockets.

    I am an advocate of electoral reform in terms of Proportional Representation in the lower house and a partially appointed and partially elected upper house. What I fail to see is that the upper house should be regarded as a pension provision for failed members of the lower house.

    There is a place for them, but they should be elected and not appointed. Other members of the Lords who are appointed, whether heredity peers or from Public Life, who can bring expertise and skills should be limited to 49%, with the other 51% being elected.

    I actually think that Party Politics should be absent from the Upper House, to allow sensible and constructive debate between individuals and as a filter to nonsense legislation being brought forward by the lower house.

    I am sure that there are other, more extreme ideas on how to reform Parliament, but being realistic, I cannot see any of my ideas being taken up – they are to radical and would upset the unwritten consensus between those in power as they might actually have to work for a living.

  3. Troika21
    21/02/2010 at 5:11 pm

    “We have had independent enquiries, reports, committees, sub-committees, police investigations and finally cases referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions”

    And how many honnest politicians?

    Sacking politicians is not a radical reform, nor is other politicians calling out their troughing brethren.

    Squealing (to keep with the pigs metaphor) that radical reform is not necessary as you’ve set up an inquiry or committee or something is precived as an underhanded tactic delaying punishment, weakening the case against offenders and doing nothing.

    No, investigations are devices used to make bad news go away.

  4. baronessdsouza
    21/02/2010 at 5:56 pm

    ………and leading to new codes of conduct, new expenses systems with new safeguards, new commissions to oversee the implementation and, above all, renewed awareness that each and every parliamentarian has a personal and moral responsibility to observe these rules.

    • Troika21
      21/02/2010 at 7:54 pm

      ‘Lessons will be learn’t!’

      Yeah, right. Investigators will make recomendtions, and they will be forgoten.

      Investigation is not the same as legislation, but the government would have us believe it is.

      And then, a few years later, another expenses row will appear, and another investigation will be set up, and investigate why the previous investigation’s recomendations were not followed through.

      And around we go.

    • Senex
      22/02/2010 at 11:31 am

      “………and” You seem to have gone dotty; its customary to use three dots “…and”. Anything to improve the literary quality of the blog.

    • Croft
      22/02/2010 at 2:07 pm

      Considering the cost of the expenses investigation, the high ongoing and permanent cost of the new standards investigations and expenses organisation frankly it would have been cheaper to give every MP 10k more salary and abolish the expenses they were fiddling. (assumed upon staff being employed directly by the house)

  5. 21/02/2010 at 6:01 pm

    I certainly hope parliament will be allowed to renew itself after the next election. That said, I am not confident that attempts at reform will make that much of a difference. From the reports of the BBC’s Mark D’Arcy, it seems like the government might be trying to scupper reforms aimed at improving the Commons Select Committees:

    I definitely do not want to see the UK parliamentary system gutted as some seem to advocate. Unfortunately, I fear that most people do not understand how the system works now. As a result, they would probably support radical change without understanding the damaging ramifications of many of the suggested reforms.

    • Gareth Howell
      21/02/2010 at 6:58 pm

      At least no man had charged his visits to a brothel up to the parliamentary expense account, and no woman member to a gigolo, although I do not read the kind of newspaper which would reveal such Lambtonesque facts.

      • Carl.H
        21/02/2010 at 9:49 pm

        As far as we know.

        Lady Chatterley ~ one gardener for the use of !

    • Carl.H
      21/02/2010 at 9:43 pm

      “Unfortunately, I fear that most people do not understand how the system works now. As a result, they would probably support radical change without understanding the damaging ramifications of many of the suggested reforms.”

      I concur wholeheartedly.

  6. Carl.H
    21/02/2010 at 7:17 pm

    Certainly the media compete for the minds of the people with politicians and it is a very British thing to raise people so we can knock them down. The media, imho, did make matters worse but it was getting out of control as can be seen. That`s not to say if we look back in time it was any different, representing the electorate will invariably do just that.

    With better communication and the ability to scrutinise things better and quicker the Houses have fallen prey and quite rightly too. Can we leave it to the members to be honourable and do the right thing ? Apparently not and whilst many members appear to be honest and noble there are some who appear to be far from it. Of course WE only have the media`s half of the story, which obviously cannot be all or 100% correct else they`d be far more than 4 heading for the Courts.

    So what, I ask, were all the honourable, noble people doing when they must have had some idea of what was happening ? Nothing it appears. Sometimes when you look abroad and see laws such as when someone does nothing to help, is a crime it makes you wonder.

    Politicians are never going to be popular, they`re the Simon Cowells, the parents alway`s putting in more rules to ruin our lives, don`t they know this ? Some are despised more than others, Lord Mandelson springs to mind, not trusted in the least yet look at the power he`s given !

    In a time when we hear Parliament squawking equality all over the shop where is it when it comes to them ? Maybe 4 court cases and they haven`t been arrested ? Do the public believe that is what would happen to them ? No ! So are the Police afraid to arrest them or is it their lawyers are better than legal aid ? Equality my left foot !

    I don`t want radical reform, I want justice and equality, I want transparency and I want both Houses to be totally honest, the last isn`t going to happen is it ?

    The fear is the new codes/regulations will allow a sidestepping but essentially allow old practices to carry on. It`s time to look at things with common sense from the peoples view. If we`re equal why should you have first class, why should you expect 5 star hotels? I expect people to be paid for their work, yes, I don`t want them out of pocket but there`s a lot of chaff at the moment specifically in the Lords. The infinite amount of Lords has to change, the budget has to be set and for me the position of scrutiniser of our bills has to be salaried, with tax and argue the toss about travel cost`s with Inland Revenue.

    Time and again we have heard on here grumbles from members, they`re obviously not happy nor are we the public. It needs sorting with definitive Rules, not codes, not practices hard and fast rules. We don`t trust you (not personal)anymore.

    The UK Constitution that you write of is again something that isn`t clear and has many questions hanging over it, not least the EU.

    ” renewed awareness that each and every parliamentarian has a personal and moral responsibility to observe these rules.”

    From time immemorial the media have ensured that the people know that moral code and responsibility has been lacking in both Houses. Affairs, sex scandals, bribes et al.

    We`re told we need laws, to keep us in order, well times change, the worm has turned. Put it right before someone else does.

  7. Annette
    21/02/2010 at 10:37 pm

    As a relative newcomer to politics, I am left horrified, sickened and speechless. I *thought* we lived in a democracy. I don’t think that now. Whats changed my views? The way the government is trying to bring in the bill to change home education. Its being buldozed through at an indecent rate, despite such strong evidence being presented against it.

    The reasons the government are giving is to protect a hypothetical child, of which there is NO evidence to back up their claims that home educated children are at a risk of abuse. THEY are accusing ME of abusing my children! They are pointing the finger squarely at us!

    Then they insist that in order to protect my children, I must allow them to be interviewed by a stranger, without my husband or I being present. Do they really think that any half decent parent would allow that? Especially so, given that the checks that are in place for the inspectors are the very checks that have no doubt been carried out with the officials that have been in the press lately, and which had failed to pick up on their unhealthy interest in children.

    I have said it before and I’ll keep on saying it. I don’t know you and you don’t know me. So tell me, would you would be willing for me to come into your home and have unlimited, unsupervised access to your children? I doubt it.

  8. Senex
    22/02/2010 at 9:41 pm

    BDS: Posted today is the role of an elected house:

    If you have time may I suggest you read the introduction in the book referred to? It gives a historical perspective to Parliaments problems today.

  9. Concerned Home Edder
    23/02/2010 at 7:24 pm

    I think a previous commenter hit it on the head. We supposedly live in a democracy but we don’t. Governments with large majorities think democracy ends at the ballot box and the peoples views don’t matter once they are elected.
    If Westminster listened to the public more (and acted on it) they wouldn’t be in such disrepute.
    About a million people marched against the Iraq war, but they didn’t listen and went ahead. So if a million people march and they don’t listen, what hope has anyone else got of being heard?

  10. Dave H
    23/02/2010 at 10:23 pm

    I’ve just been watching the CSF Bill report stage and it’s clear that the government allowed far too little time for such a complex bill. I’m also disappointed that a dozen MPs are sitting in the Commons debating the future of 11 million schoolchildren, largely for no purpose because come the vote, over 400 other MPs turn up to vote the way they’re told. Perhaps it should be a requirement that there be at least 10% of those eligible present otherwise proceedings have to come to a halt.

    If you want reform, find a way to abolish the whip and allow all MPs and Lords a free vote on everything without comeback from the front benches. Then perhaps you might get MPs doing what they’re supposed to do – serving their constituents interests – instead of blindly toeing the party line.

    I have to say that I’ve been following this Bill through the Commons and at no time has it had proper time for sensible and thorough debate. Several MPs have highlighted this, both at committee stage and at the report stage this evening. To me, not properly debating legislation that will affect millions of people is a disreputable act and I would like to see Parliament come up with guidelines to guarantee minimum times to be allocated for debate based on the number of clauses and amendments raised. Excessive Government use of guillotines is bad for the whole process. I trust the Lords will take note of what has failed to be properly discussed in the Commons and will do a better job.

  11. baronessdsouza
    24/02/2010 at 1:04 pm

    I think the Lords do take note of what has failed to be properly discussed in the Commons. In fact, there was some question recently whether the ‘Personal Care at Home bill’ should be considered at all because it left the House of Commons virtually untouched!

    The problem is the volume of legislation that floods in to both Houses – there is never sufficient time to do justice to all legislation and shoddy aspects of laws do get through.

    We are facing ‘wash-up’ in the House very soon and this will mean a mad dash to salvage certain clauses of certain bills according to political preferences. But it will also mean that many sensible clauses will be lost.

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