Muddle Muddle, Toil and Trouble

John Jackson
20 May 2010

I was startled this morning to hear a Tory MP say on the Today programme that the objection to David Cameron’s wishes with regard to the 1922 Committee (he wants ministers to be eligible for membership) was that he, David C, had plainly forgotten that he was now ‘the executive’ and that as such he was separate from and accountable to Parliament.

I do not suppose that the Prime Minister has forgotten that for one moment and find the ease with which that MP equates the Parliamentary Conservatives with Parliament as such worrying. Such an assertion can be based only on either breath-taking ignorance or, more likely, a belief that, whatever is said at the hustings, our Parliament is made up by representatives of the political parties and not by representatives of the people.

The implications of that belief are undemocratic and most objectionable not least because these parliamentary party committees meet privately, in secret, and are a mechanism whereby pressure is put on governments to keep to the ideological purity of party ‘lines’.

The very necessary accountability of the executive to Parliament must involve the whole of Parliament (not just those MPs who owe allegiance to the party ‘in power’) and be conducted openly. We are not very good at this and the past thirteen years has shown what happens when an executive regards Parliament as something of a nuisance.

I hope that David Cameron  does whatever he thinks right to moderate the influence of those ‘elders’ who tend to gravitate towards membership of  the 1922 Committee and use that membership to temper the keenness of their younger back-bench brethren for progressive change. You know the technique – ‘If you want to be well regarded in this place m’boy----‘.

I hope also that someone in the constituency of that muddle headed Tory MP, who did not vote for him but trusts him to look after all his constituents interests including the holding of government to account, asks him publicly what on earth he was talking about.  

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Paolo Gerbaudo Sociologist and political theorist, director of the Centre for Digital Culture at King’s College London and author of ‘The Mask and the Flag: Populism and Global Protest’ and ‘The Digital Party: Political Organisation and Online Democracy’, and of the forthcoming ‘The Great Recoil: Politics After Populism and Pandemic’.

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Spyros A. Sofos Researcher and research coordinator at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Lund University and author of ‘Nation and Identity in Contemporary Europe’, ‘Tormented by History’ and ‘Islam in Europe: Public Spaces and Civic Networks'.

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