Inaugural rant and that secretive MP

Here’s an idea: I’ll work for you. I’ll work for your area and the interests of your community. You tell me what’s going well and where there are problems, and I’ll do my best to fix what’s broken, improve life for you, and make sure you are represented when decisions are made which affect you. In return, you’ll all club together and pay me a salary to do this job. In a very literal sense I will work for you. You are the boss. What’s more, when I’m working for you, and, you know, incur expenses like train fares, hotel bills, quad bikes and the like, I’ll let you – the boss – know about it and look at my claims form. After all, it’s your money I’m spending. Sound reasonable? Apparently not to Conservative MP David Maclean, whose amendment to the Freedom of Information bill was passed by the House of Commons in May 2007.

If you’re unaware of the nature of the amendment; it is to remove Parliament’s obligation to declare (amongst other things) how its members spend their boss’s (that’s you and me, the taxpayers) money. You can read about it from various sources, like this one in The Observer. Mr. Maclean (and the cross-party voters in the House of Commons who passed his amendment with a majority of 71) is apparently not a public servant at all. He’s a private individual who knows what’s best, and apparently what’s best is that the rest of us don’t know as much. And before you accuse me of picking on Mr. Maclean because he’s a Conservative MP, there appear to be suggestions that tacit support was given by those ‘powers-that-be’ in the Labour Government to support the amendment’s passing.

Maclean’s actions have a faint whiff of the arrogance of the political class that we saw so nakedly when Major lost in 1997, and we were told in no uncertain terms what a mistake we – the electorate – had made, and that we would be sorry. And yes, indeed, many of us were sorry. Not because of the Conservatives predictions that a Labour Government would revert to old-style tax and spend politics of the pre-Thatcherite era, but because we had been blind to the snake that shed its skin. From blue to red; Thatcher’s heir, in Tony Blair, had arrived.

Perhaps it’s too easy, during Blair’s last days in number 10, to attempt a retrospective of the last 10 years. In any case it’s not something I’ll get into now. Sufficed to say the sorrow that was felt by many in the months and years following May 1997 was not of regret that we had made the wrong decision, but of disillusionment that though we had made the right decision, it somehow still resulted in us having made the wrong one. It’s like playing poker, and finally betting when you have a full house, only to discover that the pack was rigged everyone else round the table somehow has a royal straight flush.

I am a member of the voter apathetic demographic. Around 50% of the under-35s do not vote. Which is not to say that they are politically unaware, or politically inactive. They/we are disenfranchised from the ridiculous attitude that Maclean’s recent actions embody. Maclean’s FoI amendment, by any measure, is an insult to the nature of democracy and open government. But what’s new, this amendment is not alone; party funding; party borrowing; the decision to invade Iraq, to name but a (high profile) few. Aside from whichever other criticisms you may choose to level in their name, these all reek of the same arrogance of the political class, who will continue to court enough of the real voting demographic (the over 45s) to maintain a status quo where they don’t have to care about what the rest of the Country thinks. I’m don’t necessarily think that this is true of all politicians, and certainly in the case of Maclean’s amendment, many MPs tried hard to reject the bill. But it was still passed. By a majority of 71.

End rant.

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