Chris Bryant: Changing how capitalism works won't be popular with everyone. But it must happen

A Political Life

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I spent Thursday night at the Cambridge Union, dolled up in dickie bow and tight-fitting (I blame Christmas) dinner jacket, debating whether the Tories have been unfairly demonised. The charming hereditary Tory MP Ben Gummer advanced a fascinating argument to explain why the Tories have been significantly behind the curve on social issues over the past two decades. He reckoned it was because the party was just too good at listening to the British people, who, according to him, are intrinsically suspicious of change.

He's wrong, though. On so many issues the Tories have proved themselves far more reluctant to reform and renew than the British people, and my suspicion is that politicians of every hue have tended to mistake reading the Daily Mail for listening to the British people.

Populism is a fearsome mistress. All too often the populist ends up chasing his own tail in ever decreasing circles, which is why the insouciance of a leader who seems to care not a fig for what the public thinks can seem fleetingly attractive.

Which brings me to the battle over modern capitalism. Few can doubt that it's gone awry. Businesses that are still making a profit, like Peacocks, which employs a large number of my constituents, have the plug pulled on them by RBS, a bank that was dragged back from the brink by a massive injection of taxpayers' cash.

Short-term financial return rules, and in too many cases a narrow clique of directors appoints like-minded friends and relations as supposedly "independent directors". Not surprisingly, they then vote one another ever increasing remuneration packages.

That is why Ed Miliband was right: a campaign to reform the way the market works in the UK may be instantly unpopular with the Mail and the Telegraph, but it is not only the right thing to do, but will eventually bring electoral dividends. Incidentally, the Cambridge students voted overwhelmingly that the Tories had not been unfairly demonised.

Here's why I accepted Murdoch's offer

I've had a barrage of emails this week about the settlement of my privacy case against the News of the World. Let me be clear. There is no confidentiality clause and all the information we garnered will go to the police investigation and the Leveson inquiry. But the rules are that if I had refused an offer from News International that the court later thought was reasonable, I could have been liable for all of News International's legal costs – which could easily have run to hundreds of thousands of pounds, even as much as £1m.

Thursday was a milestone, though. If the admissions that NI made there end up in the criminal courts, several more people could be going to prison. So they have let us see the hem of the garment of the truth. These civil cases forced the Met and the Government's hands. It is now for the police (against whom I still have another case) and Leveson to prove their mettle and show us the rest. We are only in Act IV, Scene 2 and I expect to be there when the curtain comes down at the end of Act V.

Endless talk that makes a mockery of legislation

I cannot tell you how frustrating and generally infuriating a Commons Friday, supposedly devoted to Private Members' Bills, is. The fury begins to gather in my loins early in the week, when I start getting messages demanding my attendance in the Chamber for a vote on some Bill or other.

This week it was either to vote against Nadine Dorries's ludicrous proposals on abstinence sex education, or to support Zac Goldsmith's Bill on the recall of MPs, or to support/oppose Rebecca Harris's Daylight Saving Bill.

I tried to point out that since there were 64 Bills slated to be debated in the five-hour session and Dorries was No 8 and Goldsmith No 11, there was little chance of reaching them, but this simply prompted angry accusations of laziness. In the end Dorries's effort wasn't even on the order paper; the only Bill that got through (without debate) was the Live Music Bill, and the only Bill debated was the daylight one, which was dragged out interminably by two or three parliamentary obsessives and so fell.

I left when we started to hear about the death of George III – and even then missed my surgery in Tonypandy. It's sad, really, because every budding MP gets asked what single law they would introduce if they were elected; every member still retains the right to publish as many Private Members' Bills as they want, and many of the issues covered are of real interest to the public.

But the Friday rules – that you can talk as long as you want and if someone is still talking at 2.30 the Bill lapses – desperately need reform. Otherwise I, or one of the other 200 or so frustrated MPs who were willing the daylight saving Bill through, might spontaneously combust one of these Fridays.

When this MP spoke, the House fell silent

On Monday the aggressively independent-minded Labour MP Paul Flynn launched his new book, How to Be an MP, in the Speaker's House. He told a nice tale of a former Welsh MP, Gareth Wardell, who sat for Gower between 1982 and 1997. In those days parliament was not yet on television and there was no timetabling of Bills. Wardell was delighted to secure the end-of-day debate, but less happy that it didn't start until 3am, by which time the only other members in the chamber were the deputy speaker and the minister who had to reply.

Rather pleased with his speech, Wardell played a recording to his mother back in Wales. Apparently she was heard to boast for years after that "when Mrs Thatcher and Mr Kinnock speak in the Commons, everybody is chatting away, but when my son speaks, you can hear a pin drop".

Twitter.com/ChrisBryantMP

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