The news that a letter from 84 Bishops on the issue of refugees has been published, because it was all but ignored by the Government to whom it was sent privately several weeks ago is not a shock, but it is disturbing. The Church of England and her Bishops are constitutionally part of the established order within our nation and 26 of their number are unelected members of the House of Lords. None of the Bishops would have expected that a letter alone would have led to a change of national policy, after all they are part of the legislative process, but whatever our views are about the Bishops and the appropriateness of their legislative role, they currently form an important part of the structure of our state. The question that is raised is to whom do our Political representatives consider themselves accountable? There is an argument which suggests that when lots of us are responsible for a particular action, that all assume someone else will carry out the task. Thus if we wanted to ensure a job is not completed, simply hand responsibility over to a wide range of people. The same could be said to be true of accountability for power. If it appears that our law makers are accountable for their actions to a myriad of stakeholders, they can avoid being accountable to anyone but themselves and their own decision making instincts.
Are they accountable to the Sovereign? – the news that David Cameron missed the first three Privy Council meetings after he became leader of the opposition and that Jeremy Corbyn has missed the first since he was elected would suggest not.
Are they accountable to the Commons? – the number of times when Government policy is announced at Press Briefings and at Party Conferences suggests that Labour, Conservative and Lib Dems do not consider that they are. Indeed this decision to take refugees has not been given any more than a passing degree of scrutiny by our Parliament.
Are they accountable to the Lords? – the example above along with the anger from the Government when the Lords send Acts back to be amended such as this week over funding nursery education, and the cursory way in which the Government ignores its promises to the Lords makes it clear they are not.
Are they accountable to the Media? – possibly there is some accountability to people like Murdoch and his press. However the number of times when the Government fails to release a statement, let alone send an interviewee when asked by Radio 4 suggests not.
Are they accountable to us? – we certainly get to vote every time we are allowed to, but because of the rules the Government sets, only members of Political Parties have any chance of being elected. Many of the MPs, MEPs or Councillors refuse to answer letters or emails and most ignore challenges on twitter so no.
Are they accountable to their funders? – it seems that in many cases when funders demand a response, they do actually see change, so that must be it.
The answer then for the Queen and Bishops and indeed the rest of us is presumably to offer to fund the Party of the Government of the day and then only do so when they have responded to our letters, demand not to go to war or calls for them to let in more refugees, or appeared on the Today Progamme!