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AttorneyGate being one of the most obvious examples of that.

The US wins by having at least a nominal culture of representation, where no one seems to believe that contacting a representative to express a view on an issue is a strange thing to do.

The representative probably won't listen and it may not influence how they vote - they have their business colleagues to keep sweet too - but it's just as possible that s/he will and it will.

The UK doesn't have that. MPs are used as local authorities in disputes - if you don't like the new road plans, talk to your MP - but there's absolutely no real sense that they represent local people in parliament, or that local people expect them to listen to their views.

Some MPs actually do represent their constituencies quite thoughtfully. But one of the turn-abouts of the Blair years has been the erosion of that process into irrelevance.

What happens now is that Party HQ picks MPs and tells them what to do. 'Party loyalty' is a prerequisite for promotion, and means voting to order and speaking to order, often against your personal views.

Independent rabble-rousers, like Ken Livingstone and George Galloway, usually leave their home parties and go independent. And it would take a complete overhaul of the UK system to turn this around.

What's not talked about is the fact that politics in the UK is utterly corrupt. The revolving door between business and politics means that politicians can use their time in Westminster to lay-out an employment case for themselves.

Not all MPs do this, but enough of them do it to make the process as a whole democratically irrelevant.  

So Westminster now is mostly political pantomime. The opposition tries to score points, but no one really takes it all that seriously. And I think most people would laugh if you suggested a 30s, 40s or 50s style public service ethic might be important.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 04:51:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
MPs are used as local authorities in disputes - if you don't like the new road plans, talk to your MP - but there's absolutely no real sense that they represent local people in parliament, or that local people expect them to listen to their views.

That's something I absolutely don't undestand. Every time a problem is discussed at our child's school, people immediately suggest going to the MP without trying to deal with the relevant authorities (the ones that have actual decision-making power over the issue) first. And if you had to go to the central government you'd go to the department of education, or something, not to the MP, surely?

It seems like a throwback to feudal times to me.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 05:05:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It seems like a throwback to feudal times to me.

Throwback ?? What makes you think it was ever different ?

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 05:15:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Does it actually work? Can an MP really lean on the LEA and change something about after-school services?

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 05:24:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, if he wants to and if he has enough clout. Civil servants at all levels can sometimes be quite resistant to requests from MPs if they don't feel like complying for any reason.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 05:38:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's my point: the MP is not even on the buraucratic chain of command.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 05:40:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Given the nature of our politicians I'm sometimes glad that our government doesn't really work properly.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 05:49:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
When asked to describe the UK in one word (I'm a foreigner living just ouside London), that word is "Feudal". (No, I refuse to diary!)
by Number 6 on Fri Jun 29th, 2007 at 07:18:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Do you also refuse to meet?

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jun 29th, 2007 at 07:21:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, as long as I'm not on camera. (Excepting the ubiquitous CCTV "security" version which are of course always good.)
by Number 6 on Fri Jun 29th, 2007 at 07:40:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
With over 100 registered UK users we must have an ET meetup.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jun 29th, 2007 at 07:41:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Where and when?

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Fri Jun 29th, 2007 at 08:09:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A Saturday in the second half of July? Somewhere nice?

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jun 29th, 2007 at 08:17:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
According to my weather guru, August or September will be a better choice.  Somewhere central?

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Fri Jun 29th, 2007 at 08:42:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Make it September, then.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jun 29th, 2007 at 09:01:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
any idea as to a where?

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Fri Jun 29th, 2007 at 09:15:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'll nominate this part of the world, on the grounds that it's easy to get to, it's not London, and it's really rather scenic.

Obviously I have a vested interest. But even so - if not here exactly, there's always Oxford.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Jun 29th, 2007 at 10:11:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Where's this part of the world?

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Fri Jun 29th, 2007 at 11:03:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Somewhere nice?

Oh, so not in the UK after all.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Jun 29th, 2007 at 09:46:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, come on!

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jun 29th, 2007 at 09:51:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, we've done London & Nottingham.

Maybe we ought to do a poll to find out where our members are so that we can plan accordingly. No use keep doing it in London if everybody's up north. Good for you and me, but possibly not anyone else.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Jun 29th, 2007 at 10:44:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
How about Ludlow, home of the Slow Town and Slow Food movement in Britain?

I don't mind taking a train to wherever, to be honest. Someone should post a diary about a September meetup and try to get the 100 lurkers out in the clear.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jun 29th, 2007 at 10:57:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Good idea...I'll be there...

Edinburgh might be another alternative...

by Solveig (link2ageataol.com) on Fri Jun 29th, 2007 at 12:23:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You wouldn't go to a Whitehall department, because Whitehall is even more hermetically sealed against the public than Westminster is. Tell the Department of Whatever that you don't like what they're doing and they will laugh in your face.

The idea is that you go to your MP because your MP is allowed to deal with the relevant authorities, while you most certainly aren't.

Local councillors are mid-way between the two. They get some local power over local issues, but they still have to defer to Whitehall and Westminster on most issues.

So it's actually easier to talk to an MP because s/he will be one point of contact and can find the correct pressure point. If you try to find that point yourself you're more likely to end up being bounced from one place to another, with no one taking an responsibility - never mind bothering to answer your letters and emails.

Metaphorically, people in the UK are subjects, not citizens, and the political environment still reflects that.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 05:26:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I suppose, then, that electing an independent MP isn't actually an improvement.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 05:33:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Nope, utterly useless.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 05:39:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The largest cracks seem to be in local council elections. People mostly don't care who gets elected and don't see them as important - turnouts are reliably low. So if - hypothetically - a group of people decided to infiltrate one of the major parties and make the lists, it would be a lot easier to make a difference than in almost any other way.

The media and academic battle is still the most important one, I think. Think tanks and consultancies are far more influential than MPs or councillors are. With the right leverage you can make a far bigger difference with far less effort, time or money.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 07:18:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The European Parliament elections also have reliably low turnouts, but the constituencies are much larger so a much larger number of votes are needed to get elected (for instance, 160k votes in London), and the number of candidates is much smaller so the parties have an opportunity to exercise much more control over the shortlists.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 28th, 2007 at 06:02:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... people in the UK are subjects, not citizens ...

Great quote, I'm going to steal that and use it out of context. ;)

by Number 6 on Fri Jun 29th, 2007 at 07:20:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Constituent service has become a major aspect of most democracies.  Legislators figured out that if they became ombudsmen in the 1960's that the could get reelected unless they were found with a dead girl, or a live boy.  

This is the secret to incumbency, and at least in the US it generates something like a 5% advantage at the polls for an incumbent.  I imagine this matters less in Britain where politics is more fluid with no less that three parties being serious players.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 07:20:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
According to Helen [I don't have statistics], in the UK constituencies are even less likely to change party hands, so the power of incumbency is even higher. This may have something to do with "captive voters" who are beholden to one party or another for social/communitarian reasons (as in "my family has always voted Labour").

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 28th, 2007 at 06:04:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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