Its not easy to persuade some local MPs to spend the time needed to explain why they vote as they do. This is complicated by the fact that for each of us, there is only one MP in theory who we can speak to, and yet there are always at least two points of view on most votes, and they are not always simple polarised positions. Many MPs maintain an almost clinical distinction between their constituents and those other people whose opinions they must ignore at all costs. The real irony is that they will happily canvass for colleagues in constituencies many miles away, but won’t be drawn into a discussion with people a few hundred yards across an imaginary border, which in essence they decided upon. My work role gives me the opportunity to engage with 16 MPs across Sussex, and while some won’t be drawn into discussions on points of policy under any circumstances with non constituents, others will do so if it suits them. The problem is when our law makers decide to make rules without any real public preparation and in a very short time frame. This means that only the most accessible MPs such as Caroline Lucas and Sarah Wollaston will bother to let their constituents know what they are doing and why. A case in point is the most recent piece of legislation to emerge from Westminster (or rather to remain cloaked in almost secrecy), the so called DRIP or Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill.
According to my understanding the Government realised on the 8th April that it needed to make some changes to our laws to allow our security services to know who is calling who. That was all that any of us knew until yesterday when the Government suddenly announced it needed a new law and suggested that it would have one in place by next weekend. In order for this to happen a large number of MPs will need to vote with the Government even though their role is to prevent the Executive from forcing its will on the country. However far too many MPs are supine and shockingly the Opposition Party has already indicated it will support the Bill so the executive is almost certain of a win. So that’s it, the Law is made apart from the minor detail of actually passing the legislation. As a matter of course you and I are allowed to consider if we voted for the right MP once every 5 years, and in the meantime may hear very little about who they are and what they do. Even the more communicative ones mainly work in broadcast mode, most of the time, with some notable exceptions already mentioned.
This new law is very concerning, in part because it was only tabled yesterday by the Government and before any of us have had a chance to read it, we are told that the Opposition and therefore Parliament supports it. Although in principle I support the work of our security services, that depends on them being held accountable by another agency that is accountable to you and I. The problem is that the people to whom the security services are accountable are the same people who have sat on their hands since April 8th (approx. 65 working days ago) until yesterday, and are now claiming must pass it in a mere 6.5 working days. For all we know they could be shredding the Magna Carta! Another difficulty is that many of these same folk spent some of their time yesterday claiming that the decisions of ordinary people only really count if at least 50% of their number support a specific action, and they want this level of support to be tested every few months. Yet these guardians of democracy, almost all of whom were elected with a great deal less than 50% of our support, have a mandate that is only tested once every 5 years and then on the basis of vague generalities. Yet on this basis they can send young men and women to war in our name or pass emergency legislation that impacts our freedom whenever it suits them to do so.
This all sounds very disturbing, more like a dictatorship or a coup than a democracy. It is time we had a different way of running our country! I’ll vote for that!