Saturday, July 11, 2009

Making a 'Noise' or a 'Difference'.

Was subject to forensic refection on what sort of an MP I would make last night - and directly to my face. It began kindly enough, in that it seems I performed my duties during my 8 years as an Assembly Member with an "open mind" and "spoke up for the people". Things went downhill from there. At Westminster, it seems that I will inevitably be subject to pressure from the whips, will do just what I'm instructed to, and will have no influence at all. I've read other similar dismissive comments on the blogosphere. The basis on which these comments are made is that I've said that I cannot envisage a situation in which I would refuse to obey a 3-line whip. Needless to write, I disagree with these assessments of effectiveness. The upshot is that I've been instigated to write this post about how an MP can most effectively represent constituents.

I often read and hear the opinion expressed that voting against the party whip is a demonstration of an independent mind - 'putting principle before party' etc. You know the sort of stuff. Its certainly an effective way of becoming noticed and securing headlines. But it rarely has impact of any significance on Government policy. All it usually does is greatly reduce any influence on policy that the 'rebel' may have had. The only interest it serves is that of the rebels themselves. Personally, I reckon a much more effective way of making a difference is to argue and debate issues within a governing party before policy becomes established - the aim being to secure a 'free vote' or some form of 'policy flexibility', perhaps by building up a body of like minded opinion.

The issue that usually instigates this discussion is my attitude towards devolution, and my opinion that the National Assembly for Wales should be granted law making powers in those policy areas that are devolved. I shout my opinion from the hilltops, hoping for effect. Now, I don't expect our manifesto writers to respond by including a commitment to provide exactly what I want - which would be a pledge to hold an immediate referendum on the transfer of all these law making powers. Might be wrong of course. But I do hope that it will be written in a way which accepts my right to hold and advocate this opinion. By engaging in this debate now, I hope I can make a difference to our policy, which is more than I would ever achieve by voting against a manifesto commitment sometime in the future.

Another way of making a 'difference' rather than a 'noise' is to be in Parliament for important votes, rather than in the constituency chasing the camera. I still recall the huge fuss the two Powys MPs made last year about Post Office closures - and then learning that they both missed the crucial vote in the House of Commons. Iain Dale has posted on another example of this sort of behavior today.

My experience of politics is that too many MPs are too concerned about issuing press releases 'condemning' and 'welcoming' - though we all do this to some extent. None of us can afford to ignore the importance of a media profile. But what really matters for constituents is what difference can be made to promote their interests, rather than how much 'noise' can be made to promote the politician's interest - a point I made rather forcefully last night.


forensic ref[l]ection said...

Absolutely Glyn - I'm sure your prospective constituents realize that you will work hard and attend important votes, and by instigating debate now you are helping to fashion what should go into your party's manifesto.

There are other things you can/will do. Like drawing attention to things that need to be done to build up the nation's economy, to nurture private sector growth and job creation.

Imho, we need everyone in politics to realize that if President Obama doesn't get a grip on the pan caking situation with regard to American small businesses - a seemingly unimportant event to the UK - but which will greatly reduce America's need for imported goods from Europe/UK/Wales and the negative impact this will have on Europe/UK/Wales export levels and consequently a very negative impact on Welsh jobs. The recent job losses in Welsh steel (Corus/Tata) being just the tip of the iceberg if American consumers stop buying, which will happen if America's small business sector implodes for lack of normal banking conditions.

Once private sector unemployment doubles in Wales the debate over extra powers will be largely forgotten as Welsh families take hit after hit.

At one time Welsh families could at least find decent paying work if they left Wales, but if the American small business sector pancakes - there will be few places for Welsh families to flee too. What will be the point, e.g., of a Welsh family desperate for work moves via a council house exchange with a Welsh family wanting to return from London if London is also populated with desperate job seekers?

It will be 'game over' for Welsh families seeking work.

Nations will fall, governments will loose control, and a new world order that denies basic human rights will probably appear in place of current national governments.

The situation is that serious.

Obama's stimulus package clearly hasn't worked and even worse, his inaction and lack of experience has gravely damaged America's small business sector. While Obama gallivants across Europe and Africa, small businesses back in America are cutting hours and letting workers go, and even with such cutbacks, many small business owners are starting to mothball their businesses – becoming contract workers themselves working from home to save on business premises/rents. Buildings housing small businesses are emptying of staff, office rents are collapsing. These are sure signs of distress in the small business sector and the more I talk to fellow small business owners the more I hear how they are cutting back, cutting corners and shutting up. I know one that has literally moved into his office, he is so broke he can’t afford to live normally (he does real estate valuations, his business/clients has dried up), another has begged me for work. I am also getting feedback from friends in business in Chicago - they are cutting employee hours, letting some go, and many of their clients have run out of money and either going under or are shutting down ... and the reports on California's finances look very grim (California is regarded as the eighth largest economy in the world, now its state government is operating on IOUs).

America is teetering on the edge of an abyss, and with America so is Europe->UK->Wales. You guys just don’t know it yet – well now you do.

Frank H Little said...

Please excuse some personal philosophy on whipping, fuelled by some post-prandial Brecon Golden Valley. I have long felt that too many MPs (and candidates) pretend to be omniscient. Why should members be expected to examine in detail every proposal which comes before them in the House? It makes sense on issues on which one has no specialist knowledge to rely on the advice of people whose judgement one has come to respect.

It helps to belocng to a party whose policy is both rational and based on principle.

Glyn Davies said...

FR - You are right to point out that the US remains a crucially important engine for business activity in the UK. The reason why the current recession is so serious and likely to persist is that all of the industrialised world is affected. If the US fails to import, there is nowhere else to turn to.

Frank - Even without the benefit of Brecon Golden Valley, I can accept that what you say is sensible. What really gets me is when a politician suddenly believes something completely different, just because the 'party line' has changed.