Denis MacShane: A Parliament of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich

Kelly means we’ll never have MPs like John Smith or Ken Clarke again

Share
Related Topics

Our offshore newspaper proprietors have won. Parliament will now be of the rich, by the rich, for the rich. For the millionaires in David Cameron's Shadow Cabinet there is nothing to fear from the Kelly proposals. They can afford homes in London and their constituencies and the chance to see their children grew up, which Kelly now denies to those who have only a parliamentary salary to live on.

Evelyn Waugh famously complained that it was no fun living under a Tory government as they never turned the clock back on anything. He should be alive now as Kelly takes us back to a Commons in which private wealth is needed if a normal family life is to be sustained for an MP.

Of course, MPs will adjust. The supreme privilege and, if truth be told, the high pleasure of being an MP will continue to attract men and women of calibre. If Labour MPs have to stay in boarding houses while Tory MPs retire to their Notting Hill homes, so be it. In his entertaining memoirs, Paddy Ashdown recalls sharing his office as a new MP with a fellow Liberal from Cornwall. Captain Paddy convened breakfast meetings only to find his colleague was still in his sleeping bag on the floor as there was no allowance then to live in London.

Now all MPs have their own office so, with a bit of juggling of chair cushions, it should be possible to make a bed. There are three showers and one bath for 650 MPs, so things might get a bit pongy in the chamber but if that assuages Kelly, so be it.

Other changes will follow. The report is deeply misogynist with its demand that women MPs of all ages who live within a 60-minute train journey from London should leave the Commons after late-night votes to travel home to arrive at one in the morning to unstaffed, unlit stations on a cold night in November. Thanks, Sir Christopher.

Of course, that problem can be solved by the political parties making sure that all our Home Counties MPs are men. Evelyn Waugh wasn't keen on women politicians either, but it has taken one of the finest products of Whitehall to tell women that they really shouldn't bother thinking of a parliamentary career.

The Whitehall mandarin mentality of the Kelly recommendation is on display in his insistence that MPs' staff should stop political activity. If that means David Cameron's and Nick Clegg's employees cease putting out partisan press releases attacking Gordon Brown I suppose I should welcome Kelly. Actually I will be sorry to see disappear the thousands of earnest young men and women clogging up the cafeterias of the Commons as they plot and plan politics for their MP bosses. What Whitehall wants is politics-free politicians, and thanks to the stupidity and cupidity of some MPs who abused the allowances and expenses system, we are well on our way to achieving this.

Until 30 years ago, it was accepted that MPs would be London-based and, as with Denis Healey or Keith Joseph, would just make occasional fleeting visits to their constituencies. Something changed, and from 1980 onwards it became impossible to be selected as an MP without having a home in the constituency as well as in London.

In the 19th and much of the 20th century, the Commons met only six months a year. Now we expect our MPs to do a five-day week and be in their constituencies most weekends, and constituents want instant replies to their emails 365 days a year.

Kelly – or rather the mass panic of party leaderships trying to outbid each other in sanctimoniousness – will make it impossible for a John Smith or a Ken Clarke to be both a QC and and MP. Farewell to future Roy Hattersleys making a handsome living as a journalist while also being a stellar Labour politician. No more the likes of Roy Jenkins and Michael Heseltine, whose outside earnings dwarfed their MP's pay.

For centuries, British citizens have chosen highly individual men and women to represent them in Parliament. Unlike civil servants or the professional classes, MPs have not been obliged to fit into a mould decided from above. Some are good, a few are great, others are sad, mad, bad and boring or dangerous to know. That is the glory of the Commons.

For five years, an MP is accountable to his or her constituents and to no one else. Whips may bully. The ambitious may toe the line. But there are plenty of MPs who can plough their own furrows and speak their own minds. Now, thanks to Kelly, Legg, and a new standards body which will control much of what MPs can say and do and write, we are inventing a new Parliament.

Will it be a better, purer Commons firmly under control thanks to new rules and supervisory bodies? We shall see.

Denis MacShane is the Labour MP for Rotherham

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Digital Marketing Manger,Mill Hill,London

To £55kpa (12 Month Contract): Charter Selection: Major household name charity...

Project Co-ordinator/Administrator - Central London

£25000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based i...

Linux Systems Administrator - UNIX, Linux, Shell, Bash

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Linux Systems Administrator - UNI...

UNIX Systems Administrator - Oracle DBA, UNIX, Scripting

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: UNIX Systems Administrator - Orac...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Here's how to turn the tables on tax avoiders

James Moore
Here's a  

Why shouldn't a gay couple be able to have their cake and eat it too?

Louise Scodie
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
10 best girls' summer dresses

Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

Westminster’s dark secret

Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

Naked censorship?

The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil