Leading article: A valediction for a tired and tainted Parliament

The next legislature can learn much from the old one's mistakes

Share
Related Topics

Officially, this Parliament is dissolved on Monday. But MPs positively raced through the final Bills, bringing the session to an end before the week was out. Few – bar those members leaving with reluctance – will be sorry to see it go.

This was a tainted Parliament, discredited more than many MPs initially realised, by the scandal surrounding their own expenses. From serious money-making (thanks to mortgages and house "flipping") to petty foibles – Jacqui Smith's 88p bath plug – the revelations deepened voters' cynicism towards their elected representatives. Three MPs and a member of the House of Lords are facing trial.

There are those who are now associated in the public mind with their moats, their toilet seats and their duck houses – images they will bear for ever as little badges of disgrace. Yet it is also worth noting that, from the first mention of the John Lewis List, there were many MPs who chose not to benefit from a system wide open for them to exploit. A blind eye was turned to individuals' greed for too long, but insufficient credit was also given to those who worked hard for the salary they were paid. We hope that the tightening of the rules will confirm the truth that this country has, essentially, an honourable and honest legislature.

This Parliament convened during a period of great, and perhaps underestimated, transition. Not only are all three major parties now led by different people than they were at the start (and the Liberal Democrats went through two changes), but the separation of the judiciary was recognised with the creation of a Supreme Court, which meets outside the precincts of Parliament. More power was devolved to Scotland, Wales, and – after some resistance from Unionists – to Northern Ireland. House of Lords reform may have stalled, but the Upper House gained a new lease of political life, defending civil liberties against government efforts to drive through ever more repressive anti-terrorist legislation. These were grand battles of high principle in which a newly assertive judiciary, too, played its part.

With the dissolution, there are characters who will be missed. John Prescott, Ann Widdecombe, even the mellowed old warhorse Ian Paisley come to mind. We also witnessed the muted passing-out parade of New Labour's old guard. Some, such as Alan Milburn and James Purnell, left with their heads held high; others were tarnished latterly by the lobbying affair. It is no exaggeration to say that a generation of MPs is departing. Whatever the political complexion of the new Parliament, it will be younger and shorter on experience of life.

The past five years had their highlights, of course, and their dramas. The police raid on Damian Green's office was one such, which exposed the decline in institutional knowledge and observance. Most memorable, though, was Tony Blair's final Prime Minister's Questions. "That is that," he said, "the end", as his sparring partner and leader of the Opposition, David Cameron, led unprecedented applause. Will it be Mr Cameron answering the questions when the new Parliament convenes?

As a postscript, it is tempting to ask why the same spirit of co-operation and dispatch that brought this session's business to an early close could not be deployed more often. This Parliament legislated too much and too inexpertly. Efficiency savings – an early leitmotif of the election campaign – could usefully be applied to the new legislature.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

CPAC 2015: What I learnt from the US — and what the US could learn from Ukip

Nigel Farage
 

If I were Prime Minister: I would create a government that actually reflects its people

Kaliya Franklin
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower