Monday, February 04, 2008

At least one of them gets it

I have mentioned before that John Redwood's blog, which I found initially via WebCommons, is well worth a visit; amongst other things, he seems to have a reasonable level of self-knowledge (for an MP, at least).
Let’s face it. Parliament has become to some another of those monopoly nationalised industries that Labour always think work in the public interest, but which the public love to hate. People pay through the nose for the subsidised nationalised industries whether they use the service or not. The service is often not up to the standard they want. Now there are similar criticisms of the cost and performance of Parliament.

Tackling it is not easy. As perhaps the keenest advocate of competition as a force for better quality and lower cost, even I do not want competing legislatures. Indeed, I would dearly love it if we could stop the EU legislating, as the last few years of “cooperating” legislatures on both sides of the Channel has left us chronically over-governed and over regulated.

Any sensible MP must see that the public no longer thinks they are getting good value for the money they have to spend on keeping Parliament going. This is just the tip of the iceberg of the problem of public sector waste. There are thousands in senior positions across the rambling public sector spending generous expense allowances with little public scrutiny. There will be thousands in management of the public sector watching the clock and demanding more help to carry out their work.

MPs’ performance, however, matters even though it is a small part of a general problem, because it is so public, and because MPs, especially ones who are Ministers, need to set a standard and a tone for the rest of the public sector to follow.

Parliament, like the rest of the public sector, in the last ten years has set about reducing its productivity and increasing its costs. This is the very opposite of what has happened in the increasingly competitive world of the private sector.

I recommend that you go and read the rest, as Redwood sets out a few ideas for how Parliament might attempt to give the taxpayers rather better value for money.

Oh, and he does actually respond to comments too. Which is nice.


Dundonald said...

Generally, I have a lot of time for John Redwood. However, I asked him on his blog whether he believed that we would be better off in, or better off out of the EU. Alas, he gave a typical politician's answer, neglecting to answer my question directly, and instead opted to bleat on about the EU he would like to see, rather than the one that exists.

Machiavelli's Understudy said...


That's not necesarily a cop-out answer he'll have given you. There are plenty of politicians of all persuasions who would just like to see a 'reformed' EU, rather than withdraw altogether.

Technically, I would be content with a reformed EU, if that could be taken to be defined as something with a remit along the lines of the one that EFTA follows.

I suspect that there is a sizeable number of MPs who do not like the EU and are appalled by the monster that has been allowed to evolve, however they will be just as mindful of whatever hypothetical consequences might be incurred from a withdrawal from the EU. Whereas pre-1970s the bulk of our trade relations were with the wider world, we have merely swapped that for trade with the EU, with no real growth in trade, if I remember correctly. Consequently, those MPs are rightly concerned that our 'friends' in the EU will fuck us up the arse with drainage rods until we gush blood on the bathroom floor. We all know what these so-called 'friends' are capable of and how they like to ride roughshod over principles and law (ask Dan Hannan if you want to know more).

I am not trying to make excuses for us carrying on the way our politicians have been doing for the past few years, but I just think a little bit of understanding about the factors at play can be constructive.

Conservatives in particular cannot afford to 'grab on to' Europe as a mainstream issue for too long- it is a third rail for them and Labour will try to goad them in to discussing it constantly in public, with the hope of opening up some divisions and playing the "same old Tories" card. In particular, Europe is NOT an issue for the electorate. Whilst this might seem to be at loggerheads with recent polling on a referendum for the Constitution, that polling is a bit of a red herring, as it is usually posed as a question of choice- "would you like to be asked about whether or not the UK signs up to the Constitution?". Think of any other issue with the same gravitas and wonder if people would like to be asked if they would like to have a referendum on that- "would you like to have a referendum on tax rises?", for example. The popularity of TABOR in Colorado shows that people will opt for a popular vote on many weighty issues. Of course, there isn't anything necessarily wrong with that, to an extent (although I would take issue with others making decisions on liberating me of my income), but it's just to demonstrate that just because a concept is popular, doesn't mean the issue is. Europe consistently doesn't figure as an issue of massive concern to voters (although I will admit that it is usually one of my top three) in other polling.

I think the Eurosceptic movement(s) needs to be a bit more vocal and optimistic in its ideas for the future. As it is, I feel that there is too much of a "just get the fuck out" platform and it comes across as far too isolationist.

Organisations like Global Vision can make some headway, if they have the support of the various factions. It is an organisation with some weighty figureheads involved and can be taken seriously. It is looking forward towards the sort of relationship the UK ought to have with the EU and has a clear understanding of what that involves. It recognises that the EU does exist and won't go away if we just ignore it- in or out, we have to have some sort of relationship with it and its members. It is not North Korea (not in the economic sense, anyway).

As I have mentioned before, I am quite content with a relationship akin to EFTA, but I feel that we have nothing more than a skin deep commonality with many Continental partners when it comes to international relations or political and social cultures. We do not stand firmly shoulder-to-shoulder with them after times of crises, when the encouraging headlines have long gone, nor do we feel a great deal of familiarity with their institutions and customs. Look at the countries where the largest share of telecommunications traffic goes to at Christmas and you'll get some idea of those places that do still share the spirit of our common achievements and heritage and do stand firmly shoulder-to-shoulder with us when the going gets tough.

A European catch-all institution is not right for our future, but as Eurosceptics, libertarians, classic liberals, free marketeers, Anglospherists or whatever else, it is in our interests to promote a positive and workable relationship with the EU, whether we are in it our out of it.

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