Five ways to see if your MP provides value for money

Published in The Huffington Post on 11th July, 2013.

The issue of how much we should pay our elected representatives is again causing debate and outrage. Having worked in Parliament, I have seen firsthand that many MPs work incredibly hard, are committed to improving the lives of their constituents and are involved in politics for the right reasons (Steve Rotheram immediately springs to mind).

That said, I have also come across too many MPs who have only minimal interaction with their constituency and who are lazy, arrogant and vastly unfit for office. Some MPs in safe seats – those that are unlikely to ever lose an election because the support for their party outstrips the opposition – simply do not need to put the hours in because they know they have a job for life.

The appropriateness of giving MPs a £6000 pay rise at a time of economic stagnation and when a lot of people, especially those in the public sector, are really suffering, will understandably dominate the headlines.

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David Cameron on Europe: “weak, weak, weak!”

Published in The Huffington Post on 14th May, 2013.

“What would you do,” asks Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog Day, “if you were stuck in one place and every day was exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered?”

That is just one of many questions that must be running through David Cameron’s head right about now. Few things in life are certain but one thing you can bet the house on is that the manic fixation that Conservative MP’s have with Europe will, at some point, lead the party to tear itself to shreds.

Take John Major. During the dying days of his premiership, the terminal division over Europe drained the last glimmers of life out of a government that was already on life support.

It led Tony Blair to ask at the dispatch box: “Is it not extraordinary that the Prime Minister of our country can’t even urge his own party to support his position? …. His weakness and his failure of leadership are the reasons his government is the incompetent mess it is.”

He famously summed Major’s position up with one devastating line: “weak, weak, weak!”

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The ‘hardworking’ John Leech MP and his team of unpaid interns

InternsIts hard work, this politics malarkey – just ask John Leech. The Lib Dem MP for Withington placed four ads on W4MP on Monday advertising for a small army of interns to help him get through the day. The ads proclaimed just how hard the Lib Dem spokesman for Culture, Media and Sport works and stressed the strong role he plays in championing all of his constituents.

In fact, Mr Leech is such a strong champion of the good people of south Manchester that he wants four of them to work for between three months and a year on zero pay.

Leech, who makes a minimum of £65,738 per year as an MP, is advertising for a Campaigns Intern, Casework Intern, Research Intern and a Diary, Fundraising, Press and Communication Intern. Incredibly, the latter will be tasked with raising money for Leech to spend on communicating with constituents.

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Young people pay the biggest price for PCC election shambles

Source: The Guardian

Published in The Huffington Post on 19th November 2012.

‘Farcical,’ ‘a complete shambles’ and ‘a comedy of errors from start to finish.’ That’s just a taste of the autopsy report on last week’s elections to appoint Police and Crime Commissioners.

Turnout ranged from a dismal 11.6% in Staffordshire to a high of 19.5% in Northamptonshire. The number of people that voted (4.8 million) was only half the total number of reported crimes last year (9.1 million – including London). Despite spending £125 million, David Cameron and Theresa May have somehow managed to preside over the worst election result in British history.

The absurdity of this has naturally dominated the airwaves and blogosphere. Are the results legitimate and can the new PCCs claim a democratic mandate? Why did the government insist on forcing through plans that seem so at odds with the public mood? And why was the money not spent on saving some of the 16,000 police jobs currently being cut?

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Exam hysteria risks costing Britain billions

Published in The Huffington Post on Thursday, 16th August, 2012.

The reaction to the release of exam results has become all too predictable. The results are announced, records are broken and then a chorus of negative comments dominates the headlines.

The number of students receiving the highest grade may have slightly dipped, but instead of celebrating the success of a generation that is often unfairly demonised, we insist on ignoring the hard work carried out by both students and their teachers. As a result, the response to Thursday’s A Level results was about as surprising as the clenching sensation you get by listening to Michael Gove speak for more than 14 seconds.

It goes without saying that this is a dangerous ritual. Not only does it undermine the achievements and confidence of hard working students, it also risks damaging one of Britain’s key exports.

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