For we hear that Lord Gus O’Donnell – an unelected and unaccountable civil servant who ascended the greasy pole to become Cabinet Secretary, a real life version of Sir Humphrey Appleby, enjoying and wielding immense power over the way this country has been run in recent years – has recommended that aspiring MPs should be forced to meet ‘pre-qualification criteria’ before being allowed to stand for election.
It doesn’t stop there. O’Donnell also recommends in his piece, called ‘Better Government‘ that government policies should be vetted by former ministers, accountants and ex-civil servants, arguing that radical change is needed because the country is ‘in a bad place’. In the article where he outlines his ideas, O’Donnell states that:
- Politicians have a “ludicrous bias” in favour of older people
- Health provision is “expensive and inefficient”
- The education system does not produce the skills that businesses need
Yet his solution is to engage, among others, the very former ministers and ex-civil servants who presided over the creation of the mess in the first place.
Has anyone spotted the little flaw in all this?
Yes, that’s right. It is the people who should decide who represents them (however badly), not some self selecting, establishment appointed cabal that is unelected and unaccountable. As usual, there is no place whatsoever for ordinary people like you and me in determining who gets to hold this significant influence, and we will have as little influence over those people as we do over the current crop of politicians who do so badly by us in return for so much.
While a ‘source’ at the Cabinet Office has responded by saying that:
It is not clear who would oversee the pre-qualification of Parliamentary candidates, and for what purpose. At present they undergo rigorous scrutiny by the electorate. It’s called democracy.
the concern we should have is that this was dreamed up at all. And now it has been mooted, you can be certain there will be politicians who will spot opportunity in all this and their voices will, over the years, add to O’Donnell’s call and seek to put his recommendations into practice.
O’Donnell wrote in his article that:
There are very few jobs that do not require individuals to undertake training and development before being promoted, so this would bring MPs into line with the reality of their constituents’ lives.
But this fails to recognise that the role of an MP is to represent their constituents, not serve their own interests by seeking advancement.
However, that said, we should recognise that the idea of training for MPs who have been elected does have some merit. It might put an end to many of the nonsensical, ill informed and ignorant comments they make about lawmaking and fatuous assessments of where power resides, which demonstrate they do not understand the structures of governance, how laws are made or what processes bring them into being.
But it is insulting for O’Donnell to call for the creation of an Office for Taxpayer Responsibility to vet government policies and opposition manifestos, when such an office is not accountable to taxpayers.
As it is taxpayers are not consulted about how their money is used. Such an entity would simply be the addition of an extra layer of bureaucracy and control, that only serves to move ordinary people further away from anything resembling democratic control over the actions of the political class, rather than improve governance.
It is small comfort that the aforementioned Cabinet Office source accepted that improvements were needed. But to be of any impact they would need to be something of the magnitude of wholesale structural reform and, in particular, empowerment of voters, which is the central tenet of the Six Demands of The Harrogate Agenda. And we can be certain that approach will most certainly not be something that is put on the table.
As always, this is another example of the establishment talking to itself and arranging the furniture in a way that suits its wishes, doing unto us what they will, without our consent or any reference to us. Until that central problem is rectified, nothing that GOD or any of his establishment ilk suggest will improve our situation.
It is sometimes said the voice of the people is the voice of God. Not in this case, evidently.