Posted by: John | December 23, 2009

Mark Pack’s fundamental question: `The Rhododendron problem`

His blog interviewing people on the subject of `Would Parliament be better if MPs spent more time at debates than listening to constituents` is a fundamental question and to my mind the person that I most admired is the one standing down, David Howarth.

The point surely is not whether they shouldn’t do casework but what types. I do object to MPs going on about local Cllrs being `useless` when many also hold down a full-time job, perhaps have a family and don’t have the resources on tap to do that job as effectively as an MP.

When I was a Cllr I was rang up by a constituent demanding me to see what a mess the Council was making of the rhododendrons. In fact the whole street was up in arms yet there was little I could do on a Friday workday in a busy open-plan office where it would be common knowledge that I was working on behalf of constituents and not for the company who was paying me.

One of these people took it upon herself to ring the local Labour MP. I tried as best I could to resolve the issue from afar even calling the duty officer on a Saturday and then finding a solution on the Monday. I rang the constituent to tell her what had happened only for her to say `Oh the MP sorted it out – if it wasn’t for her nothing would have happened`. I felt like retorting `but unlike me she doesn’t have staff!`

I have no objection to Lib Dem MPs CURRENTLY doing this as we are ill-served by our electoral system and often take up the slack of other parties. What happens though when fair votes are achieved and there’s proper devolution of powers? Surely there’ll need to be proper rights for working Councillors with resources to match as well as a delineation of roles between Councillors and MPs with a code of conduct stating what an MP should involve himself/herself in and what they can’t.

It’s a fundamental question that in practice we can duck as it’s up to other parties to keep up with us. Until Parliament can sort out ITS ROLE and is prepared to cede power from the Centre (and that means taking control of the empire-building Civil Service) this question will never be resolved.



  1. I think it’s a matter of more than (only) Parliament sorting out its own role – important though that is.

    It’s often the case that a letter from an MP will get a problem looked at by officials (whether of the state or the private sector) where members of the public have failed before. I guess it’s for a variety of reasons, including fear of publicity and even (still!) some respect for elected people.

    But whatever the cause, whilst getting an MP to raise an issue can still have an impact in this way, it’s always going to make sense for people to raise all sorts of issues with MPs.

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