Wednesday, 23 November 2016

A crisis of parliamentary competence

By now I assuming you have all seen the video above. My opinion of Labour MPs, I thought, could not sink any lower. For sure, gross stupidity is not confined to the opposition benches but Labour does seem to have a talent for selecting particularly cretinous females. One had assumed the base level of stupidity bottomed out with Angela Rayner and the ultra-dense Jess Phillips but it turns out you can sink lower.

What one immediately notices is that all of these quarter-wits were selected from an all women shortlist. It seems that the only qualifying criteria for selection is a pulse and a vagina. For followers of the Westminster bubble this probably comes as no great surprise but it's something of a shock to me. Being attuned to policy rather than politicians I do not keep many tabs on the flapping mouths of Westminster.

I was acutely aware that the SNP were graceless chippy misanthropes and had assumed this was merely the quality of having won seats unexpectedly. One would have thought that Labour, a mature party of some standing for many years, would have a functioning branch system that could weed out the chaff. Evidently not.

Of course it would be remiss not to point out that the Tories have their fair share of thickos. Andrea Leadsom has not covered herself in glory and Priti Patel is similarly underwhelming. All in all women are extremely badly represented in politics.

That said, it is unfair to single out the women. John Redwood is not a man I credit with intellect and when it comes to time served with a dunce cap on the head, many on the front bench have certainly racked up the hours. It may be that it's just the regional accents which make stupid people sound considerably more stupid. I don't know.

What seems to have happened is that political parties have sought to be more representative. For many years now the public, myself included, have wondered why parliament doesn't seem to be the domain of "real people". Well now it is. After the slick and well polished Blair and Cameron we now have MPs more in line ordinary folk, as indeed parliament is intended to be. We make a virtue of representative democracy. Well folks, this is what it looks like. Awful.

By plucking any hapless biped off the streets to serve a parliamentary term, we have possibly one of the least capable parliaments of all time and the worst crop of politicians in living memory. To an extent though, that should not concern us. Stupidity is fluid affliction and with careful training even the most moronic can be primed to perform simple tasks. What should concern us though is the character of our MPs now.

Brexit is the most constitutionally seismic event for a great many years. MPs have known full well it was on the cards and have had two years to prepare. By this point, to not know what the single market and the customs union is, is pure professional negligence.

In this I do not expect MPs to be fully conversant in all of the technicalities. I'm not. Right now there are plenty of debates unfolding going over the intricacies of trade and when it comes to trade imbalances and tariffs I'd probably have to don the dunce cap with the rest of them, but it is the innate lack of curiosity or sense of obligation to find out what these basic terms mean - when it is their job to know - that tells us we are not well served at all.

Having made a good deal of noise about the sanctity of parliamentary sovereignty, seeking to second guess the decision of the people, parliament has asserted its superiority over the people. In this parliamentary democracy we are subordinates to them. Now that they have, we learn that these people have no idea what the EU is or how it functions - yet presume to tell us that it is in our best interests to remain within it.

We are told that deliberative democracy is a safety mechanism to avoid egregiously stupid decisions but when we are in such a state where parliament is less informed than the man in the street then we really have no need of it. The choice that voters made in the referendum was made with at least as much, if not more, consideration than our MPs have given it. What have they done to deserve the extraordinary privileges we grant them and what right have they to second guess us?

If this is now the best our selection process can deliver then it is time to reappraise parliamentary democracy and move to a more direct model of democracy. If we are going to have stupid people making decisions then it is better if we cut out the middleman and widen the sample so at least the decisions are not taken from within this claustrophobic Westminster bubble. As a model, parliamentary democracy is spent - and if we wouldn't trust these people with so much as a TV remote then we most certainly cannot trust them to run the country.

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