Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
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
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