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MPs Not Following Up

2019 May 07

Lately, I’ve been listening a lot to Commons proceedings. They are making my life more difficult, they are chasing away companies, they are destroying the NHS (although that has been happening since, at least, Blair was in power) so I decided to understand a bit better what happens within the House of Commons.

It is not the first time that I’ve heard parliamentary proceedings. During the IndyRef I did listen to a few parliamentary commissions. As a side note, the amount and depth of them, compared to what was done for the Brexit vote, is very interesting, or rather depressing in regards to the later. If you wanted to, you could have been quite well informed during the IndyRef about the consequences of leaving. Every single assumption was put to the microscope before the vote. If you were uninformed it was because you wanted to.

I come from Spain, where we have a written constitution and the laws are also fully codified, so finding that UK was this set of disperse rules and customs it was surprising on discovery. Even the famous Erskine May (£329.99 to buy!!! … and still tempted) is just a collection of how procedure evolved and the conventions of parliament. But, well used, it is a system that could be very flexible. The Commons, and for extension the nation, would be able to react quicker to the changes of time, rather than the complications of changing a written constitution from 50, 100 or 200 years back, which would never be up to the task. Of course, that would require people wanting to change as needed … and neither the Conservatives (expected) nor Labour (a bit unexpected) seem to care about changing at any point ever.

During the time watching them, one of the most noticeable facts is the lack of follow-through on questions to the PM or ministers. The worst offender, because he has three straight questions during every single PM Question Time, is Corbyn. He usually fails to continue a line of questioning using May’s answers against her. He just keeps on the script that he has prepared. This is made even worse because May and most of her ministers are really weak at the dispatch box and they leave so many points of attack with their answers. Let’s say that a) they are economical with the truth, b) nearly all their statistics can be easily taken apart, and c) they try too hard to avoid giving the straight answer (because it will be damaging).

But he is not the only one. A very infuriating fact is that it really looks like all MPs are not paying enough attention to the answers or decide that what they have to say is far more important. Even if what they are asking/commenting was already done four times previously (is it just to put in record that they asked the question?). Remain MPs are very much guilty of this, asking time and time again about a second vote, without taking into account what May has already say or answered. They keep repeating the same question, without weaving somehow the answers given. It is so inneficient, and makes it so easy for government to say: I'll refer you to the answer of the previous question.

One of the few really bright spots is Hillary Benn. Usually his questions tend to be very specific, using previous comments made by the PM or the ministers, and leaving little room to manoeuvre without the answer being a straight up lie.

But I wonder, how much trouble could give a group of MPs to the PM or the ministers, if they talked beforehand on pressing a specific line of questioning with follow ups, rather than just resetting questions?

Unless otherwise stated, all posts are my own and not associated with any other particular person or company.

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