Five ways to see if your MP provides value for money

parliament

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!”

David Cameron - Europe

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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Young people pay the biggest price for PCC election shambles

Source: The Guardian
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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The Coalition’s War on Privacy

Source: PA
Source: PA

Published in The Huffington Post on Wednesday, 4th April, 2012.

It’ been a torrid couple of weeks for David Cameron. Ministerial incompetence combined with headline grabbing cock-up’s such as the Granny Tax, the Pasty Tax, a tax break for millionaires and the fuel crisis have produced an entirely self inflicted news cycle that refuses to die.

You have to feel for Armando Iannucci. Anything in the new series of The Thick of It will look positively tame in comparison.

The government has broken Westminster’s golden rule: they have done the hat-trick of getting the policy, the politics and the PR catastrophically wrong.

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The clocks have gone back. It’s now 1990

thatcher leaving

Published in The Huffington Post on Sunday, 30th October, 2011.

As we enter November and leave British Summer Time behind, we reach the 21st anniversary of Margaret Thatcher’s resignation as prime minister. Despite the melodrama of more recent political events, it is hard to imagine what Westminster must have been like in the three weeks between Geoffrey Howe quitting the cabinet and Thatcher being forced from office. Or is it?

The issue of Britain’s place within Europe was dominating the political agenda. An unpopular prime minister had suffered a damaging rebellion from her own party. The Tories were trailing in the polls. The economy was inching towards a recession. And a high profile member of the cabinet had just resigned.

Far from being unique, this has an eerily familiar feel.

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The toxic ‘E’ word: 21 years on, the Tories learnt nothing from Geoffrey Howe

20100203_73931499_w

Published in Total Politics Magazine on Tuesday, 1st November, 2011.

Even by Westminster’s standards, the past week has been bizarre. Parliament has been engrossed by an puzzling backbench debate on the issue of Britain’s place within Europe. The House of Commons, the tea rooms and parliamentary bar have again been filled with non-stop chatter about the ‘E’ word. It culminated in David Cameron suffering a needless blow to his authority following the biggest ever Conservative rebellion over Europe.

As the economy risks sliding back into recession, the Tories appear to be transfixed on ideological profligacy rather than adopting a pragmatic approach to governing and dealing with more urgent realities.

This seems eerily familiar.

Today marks the twenty-first anniversary of Geoffrey Howe’s resignation. On 1 November 1990, the former Chancellor and Foreign Secretary quit the Conservative front bench and triggered a political tidal wave that ultimately led to Margaret Thatcher’s fall from office.

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