Simon Carr: The Sketch

Committee selection process that makes a mockery of democracy
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The Independent Online

The Commons can blame themselves. The committee chairs are still nominated by the whips and the Commons votes on their choice. But they aren't allowed to vote against the nominated candidate. Who stops them? The whips. So the majorities in favour resemble Saddam Hussein's.

The rebels, led by Martin Salter, achieved a great victory. They faced down the establishment, the whips, the entire party hierarchy on both sides with their legitimate democratic demands. "What do we want? No ex-ministers chairing committees! And when do we want it? Now!" Is that right? It doesn't look right. "When do we want it? Never!" That doesn't look right either.

There's a reason why it doesn't look right. Chris Mullin, for instance, would make a better chair of almost any committee than almost anyone. Nick Raynsford knows very much more about local government finance than the inconspicuous minister. Frank Dobson should be chairing Health. Obviously. Michael Meacher should be presiding over one of the many environmental committees. And Foreign Affairs? Robin Cook. Even new members, knowing nothing, would know that Mr Cook would make a superior chair of that committee than ... no, the name's gone again.

Charles Clarke announced his new intentions for banning the barmier imams. Without going into the theology of it, some of these characters are yodelling. No disrespect intended, of course, but some of them need a sack of mixed fruit to go with the nuts.

We have more than enough laws to shut them up, or keep them out, but Charles Clarke is going for more and ever more. It's a sort of legislative therapy. What, don't you feel better? You're so selfish. It's not therapy for you, it's therapy for Charles Clarke.