However, what his daily missives do indicate is that the system itself is rotten to the very core; I don't only mean that it is corrupt, but that it quite simply doesn't work. For instance, the government controls Chamber time such that it can force Bills through without a reasonable debate, usually citing lack of Parliamentary time which is quite obviously untrue—remember how MPs were going to award themselves an extra week off before Christmas because they didn't have enough work?
However, what is most obvious is that—whilst some MPs are self-interested, mendacious fools—the real culprits here are those who have been in tenure for many decades and who are utterly unaccountable: the Civil Service. Anyone who has watched Yes, Minister has seen an all too accurate portrayal of how the Civil Service works.
The key ways in which it operates—through jobs for the boys and by insulating ministers from having to make decisions—is illustrated nicely in this little vignette from Redwood.
Yesterday I was invited to lunch in the House of Commons by the Thames Valley Economic Partnership.
It was the kind of invitation I usually decline, as I do not approve of lunches at the public expense for public servants. I went because the rules of the game to get approval and money for important transport projects in my constituency require that I express agreement with other MPs, Councils and quangos over the needs of the "region" in order to persuade the Minister to consider our case. The Minister came to the lunch. I did not wish to let the side down, and have to accept the rules of the game as designed by this present government.
The lunch began with a speech telling us, "We have all the stakeholders and all the people that matter in transport in the Thames Valley around this table." The list comprised 6 local government officials, 1 Councillor, 6 MPs, 4 representing the Thames Valley partnership, 5 from central government and its quangos and 16 others mainly from private sector companies. Local and national government officials were well represented.
Of course they were; these well-fed, porcine bureaucrats weren't going to miss out on a free lunch, courtesy of the taxpayer, were they now?
I bit my lip—surely the most important people are the passengers who use the transport system, and surely there are more than a handful of companies involved in delivering the complex transport services of our large region? Are these not important "stakeholders"? I restrained myself from shouting out "Lese-majeste to the voters", or even "These lunching emperors have no clothes".
Do go and read the whole thing, because it perfectly encapsulates how this government—and, one suspects, most governments before it for at least a century—works. Or rather, doesn't work.
The whole performance summed up admirably what has gone wrong with modern government. A large number of people drawing generous salaries from the state sit round endless discussing a problem which has obvious solutions. We are short of transport capacity so we need to provide more. As a result of this meeting it is unlikely the government will make any decision.
The whole system is riddled with low-level corruption from the top to the bottom; and it is the corruption of stagnation and failure. I am more and more convinced that Dr Sean Gabb's identification, and advocated destruction, of "the enemy class" is the only way in which we are significantly going to change things in this country. Or, indeed, any other.
There is an entrenched system of self-satisfied patronage throughout the Parliamentary system which is now designed to work, not for the benefit of the taxpayer who has to pick up the bill, but for the Civil Servants who spend it.
There is no option but to tear it all down and start again.
* DISCLAIMER: through my partnership with Mike Rouse, Redwood is now a client of mine. You'll just have to take my word for it that this has not coloured my view of him. I should also point out that John Redwood does not use any of his Parliamentary Allowances to pay for his site and is thus not constrained by any of the rules on party political campaigning contained in, say, the Communications Allowance.