Systemic Political Failure

images (102)The return of Boris Johnson to the House of Commons in May 2015 whilst retaining the role of Mayor of London will reflect failures within our Political System, that takes the UK back several decades to the era we were all acknowledging three days ago. The Gentleman Politician is a myth and Johnson is no gentleman but the idea that elected officials should be free to do what they wish as long as the chaps at the club don’t mind was something that began to be left behind in August 1914. As our boys went to France to play their part in the War to end all Wars it became clear that the impending common suffrage would change the political culture forever. Sadly Boris Johnson and David Cameron and their friends are arrogant enough to believe that they can turn back this particular clock irrespective of how it plays out in the country at large. All that matters is to defeat UKIP, Labour in 2015 and serve the personal ambitions of these privileged men, despite the clear risks of further long term damage to our universal democracy.

There will not be rioting in the Streets, nor a resurgence of the Suffragettes, but the sense of disrespect and abuse from these wealthy men towards the rest of us will play out badly when the next difficult decision needs to be taken by any Government, needing the consent of the nation at large. This is despite any personal popular support that there may be for the persona of ‘BoJo’. This is the equivalent of the Bullingdon club smashing up a Restaurant only to return to pay for the damage, but then despairing that the community beyond their cozy lives no longer respects business and personal cultural norms.

I recall a Chief Executive of East Sussex County Council explaining that the first holders of her role were only part time appointments. One of these predecessors had two part time jobs. The other was as Chief Executive of West Sussex County Council. At lunch time he caught the train from Lewes to Chichester to spend the afternoon in the West. MPs are split between those who believe that their role is full time, and those who believe it requires outside interests to bring fresh idea and knowledge into the Chamber. We have not yet reached the point when MPs are asked to sign up to a contract for the hours worked and their behaviour. That is true for Councillors and Mayors. Indeed in the case of Police and Crime Commissioners the legislation makes it clear that the role is not necessarily full time. However MPs who spend 20 or 30 hours a week on other roles should be open with and seek the consent of their electors. It is clear that the prospects of re-election for Cllr Paul Whittle, leader of the opposition in Fareham who works full time in Saudi Arabia are not strong. Boris can only be elected as an MP if a Local Association selects him, and if local voters elect him. However all of these deliberations will happen behind the backs of those who elected him as Mayor. If an MP wanted to stand as a Police and Crime Commissioner, a role that Boris holds in London, they would need to first resign their seat. However there is no barrier to PCCs becoming MPs. Few local Conservative Associations would fail to select someone like Boris Johnson, and he knows that his target seats are all bound to return a Conservative candidate as MP. These are sufficient abuses to concern most democrats. However to seek election whilst still serving such a vital role as Mayor of London, simply shows how out of touch Boris and his advisers are. Most of us who work for an employer, are prevented from seeking additional work without their consent. Boris and all other elected officials are not bound by such rules. That distinction will not be lost on many people who can be bothered to pay attention to his ambitions, particularly those whose single full time job does not pay enough for them to enjoy their lives as they might wish. A great many more have already given up on the idea of voting and engaging in civic society. The Big Society is already looking a bit thin in many places, this decision by Boris will see it lose even more weight.


About ianchisnall

I have a passion to see public policy made accessible everyone who want to improve the wellbeing of their communities. I am interested in issues related to crime and policing as well as in policies on health services and strategic planning.
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