I have had one of my brainstorms, I had been listening to the news and felt Westminster was not in the quiet almost monastic way one sees it. I then questioned whether we really needed over 600 members of Parliament. I was aware that they were supposed to be occupied in committees, but, anyone who has been in committees will know, it is. as a general rule, that there are two or three strong-minded people, and the rest are a little vague, and it often falls just to one man to make the final decision. I then widened the question into a number. Presupposing that we take out the elderly, like me, people under 18, and those not permitted to vote, we will probably have an electorate of somewhere in the region of 40 million. I suspect that after two years, about 2% will remember the name of the MP they voted for, or about one million. To some extent that figure depends on the constituency work that the MP has done. What percentage of the people have ever written to their MP or contacted him? If my own case is anything to go by, I was in my 80s before I ever did, and that was because of writing the blog. When I have received answers from Cabinet ministers, or probably their secretaries, it has only been occasionally that the information given was useful rather than a palliative. One thing I do know is, for one to get into the civil service, at the level of those working in Westminster, a very high standard is demanded. Hence, civil servants could replace some of the MP’s working in committee, providing there are MPs in control. It seem that we would not need so many MPs functioning as committee members, and suggests, on the basis of cost per hour per person, there might be a considerable saving. Clearly, an overriding committee would need to rubberstamp the findings of the lower ones, but I suspect this system is already in place.
As I understand it, the primary function of an MP is to act as a link between Parliament and the electorate in a given area, to look after the needs of the individual, and preserve the rule of law. Local government has a very close relationship with the populace it works for, and it would therefore seem logical that there should be some strong combination between the local authority and Westminster, but I fail to see if this were the case, where you had only 200 MPs, that it could not work more efficiently than it does at present, assuming the reorganization of the communication between Westminster and the local authority. There must be large areas of overlap in the current system. The systems in Westminster and local authorities were set up in the days of pencils and paper, and later with the telephone. Now with the Internet, which the government is determined we shall all use, I believe the time taken to pass on information, relative to the past, is a vital clue to the way in which our governmental system could be overhauled to give the individual better access if he wants it, as a cost saving exercise, and a rationalization of tradition which is rapidly crumbling, as we’ve seen in the last few years. It is all very well that Westminster is a sort of private club, relatively unassailable to the individual, and run on traditional lines possibly dating back to the Magna Carta, but everything has moved on at such a speed since the 50s, that I believe radical re-structuring is imperative. Not overnight, not in a year, but piece by piece, carefully, over time.