Sunday, July 23, 2006

Pledgebank- Jack Straw, the House of Lords, reform and accountability

Jack Straw - Cretin?

Right, it's fairly well established around these here parts that we don't think much of the current Government. However, we now have conclusive proof that Jack Straw is an idiot:
we have a problem in the House, which is called researchers trying to prove a point and the result of these websites called TheyWorkForYou which simply seem to measure MPs' work by quantitative rather than qualitative measures.
Apparently, that MPs are getting their researchers to make themselves look good is the fault of a website dedicated to informing people what MPs get up to. On the face of it, he may have a point, but the site itself makes it clear the best way to judge an MP is to get to know them, stats are simply a metric not an end in themselves.

Tom Steinberg, head of MySociety, in a comment at RecessMonkey:
For anyone who wants to help us tweak and improve the data that TheyWorkForYou publishes so that it makes MPs do more good things (like answer constituency mail) and fewer dumb things (like table pointless questions) we’re holding a public meeting on November 7th to discuss the options. Please email to reserve your place, as space is limited. Someone please ask Jack if he’ll come to say something more constructive
Both of which leads us to this new pledge. As Guido puts it:
TheyWorkForYou, PublicWhip and shine a spotlight on what our parliamentary shysters get up to. You can see what they say, how they voted and who is giving them bungs. In addition what freebies they take, what vested interests they are close to and where they have been are all in the register of interests online. The websites also enable you to communicate with your representative easily. They are tools for democracy.

Guido thinks we need to play closer attention to Jack Straw and what he is trying to keep out of the picture.
Go sign up.

Reform the House of Lords

James, it seems, is on a roll, for he's also got another pledge going that has me interested; a year ago, I signed the first Elect the Lords Pledge, the results of which are here (and looking back, boy has my writing improved over the last year of blogging), so the new one is welcome. I restate my belief that direct election isn't the answer, and prefer a hybrid chamber made up partially of representatives from lower levels of elected representation such as Holyrood, County Councils, the London Assembly, etc and also partially of citizens selected by lot from the electoral register. It seems I'm not alone in this preference, and it even has a name, Sortition:
In 1998, Anthony Barnett, a Senior Research Fellow at London University, wrote a pamphlet in connection with the ongoing reform of the House of Lords entitled The Athenian Option, in which he advocated random selection as a method of election to the new upper chamber.
The current House of Lords is an accident waiting to happen, and the corruption scandals surrounding the Prime Minister at the moment are largely linked closely to the way it is composited. Change is needed. As I said before:
I've already argued here and here, we don't need an elected Lords, we need an effective Lords. We need to sort the constitution out.
Pledge to reform the lords

No comments: