Political Promise

MPs are rubbish… I think

In Uncategorized on July 31, 2010 at 7:32 pm

By Matthew Beer

Should we call up our local MP if we want to build a conservatory in our back garden? Should we contact them if we would like support for a new business venture? Is our MP the best person to help our child to get into the right school? Ought we call our Member of Parliament if we need help setting up our satellite television?

Do we know what our Member of Parliament is actually supposed to do for us?

I have recently had a closer inspection of constituent-MP interaction, being able to see what constituents expect of their MP and the matters, which they hope their MP can help with. It was an illuminating and almost shocking experience for someone who thought they knew a fair amount about politics.

What struck me was the lack of knowledge, that all of us as constituents, have of what MPs are actually supposed to do for us. Members of Parliament and their office have to split their time carefully between dealing with serious matters with constituents who have a large personal investment in issues that deal with the law and the bulk of correspondence which consists of trivial matters, most of which do not directly involve the government or contain anything which the MP is able to help with.

We then go on to criticize or MP if they are unable to help us with things that should not involve them. This is partly due to the structure of the political system and the cravings of the media. The structure of the political system means that the opposition seizes on any political failing. Many constituents are fundamental party loyalists and if there is an opposition MP in office, they will ask much of them, never being satisfied with the response, but just waiting for the MP to fail so that they have ammunition against them for the next election.

The political structure also means that we are confused when we vote in our MP. We have split minds between choosing the political party we want to govern the country and the local MP that we want to serve our constituency. Do we vote for the party or the person? No matter which of the three main parties we prefer it may be much better for us personally to vote in the better individual as our MP. The confusion of whether to base our vote on person or party penetrates through to further confusion about what our MP does.

The media also finds success in exploiting the failings of an MP. Shocking press sells newspapers whereas an article expressing how well an MP helped someone’s business for example will never make the headlines.

We all naturally criticize the government; we like to express our opinions and how we would do things. However I argue that we should not criticize and complain about our government and our representatives when we do not truly understand what they can and are supposed to do for us. Even though I am a politics student I admit that prior to this summer I had a very poor knowledge of what an MP is able to do and should do for us. I believe that a significant percent of the adult population has little idea of what our MP and our government could and should be doing, and thus we end up holding personal and ambiguous criticisms of something we don’t understand. Yet it is something that is so important.

I believe that we need a much better education in politics if we are to have an effective and respected government in Britain, and it is a belief that I shall constantly refer back to in the future.


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