David Cameron wants to cut the number of MPs in the Mother of Parliaments. The number will be reduced by around 10% to less than 600 for the first time in decades.
His plans are described in this interview in the FT, and expanded on at Hadleigh.eu. Hadleigh puts it well when he condenses the rationale: “Members of Parliament are quite unpopular at the moment so it follows that we should have fewer of them.”
Of course the argument is more complex than that. There is a bias towards Labour that mean the Tories need a larger share of the votes to win an equal number of MPs. As natural as it is to think this is a Good Thing, this is obviously unfair. Cameron argues that for the efficiency of Government the number of MPs should be decreased.
Hadleigh uses the great quote from Yes, Minister (will it ever stop being relevant?) to illustrate that this proposal may end up making it harder for Cameron to Govern and not easier.
There are only 630 MPs and a party with just over 300 MPs forms a government and of these 300, 100 are too old and too silly to be ministers and 100 too young and too callow. Therefore there are about 100 MPs to fill 100 government posts.
A Government would have to fill jobs with people without an adequately large pool of talent to draw from. Hadleigh gives us the terrifying idea of “a Cameron Government with Health Secretary Dan Hannan in it.”
Mark Thompson thinks that this Hagleigh’s failure. Mark argues that a smaller Parliament could have a smaller number of Government posts and that a shrinking in Parliament would help shrink Government.
He points out that a smaller number of MPs need not contain an increased proportions of dangerous cranks like Dan Hannan, it could in fact see these marginal figures edged out.
However, I wouldn’t want to argue that what we need is to reduce the size of the legislature. We need to increase it. The legislature is not just there to supply fodder for Government posts or expenses account for Party Lackeys. It performs two vital roles, one is to hold Government to account and another is to represent those that elected them.
More MPs does not mean larger Government, the operations of Parliament itself have not contributed to the state spending significantly. It does not follow that more MPs will mean more ministerial posts, or vice versa. What an increase in MPs would bring, I hope, is a greater diversity and greater independence for the legislature.
If there were more MPs and they were more accountable (like Mark, I favour a roughly proportional system using STV with multi-member constituencies) then we could force them to do as we wanted and shoot down the poor legislation which has put forward. A larger more activist Parliament would have helped us stop ID cards, smoking bans and illegal wars.
The last few decades has seen a side-lining of Parliament in favour of the Executive. This centralising trend accelerated under Blair and Brown and a smaller Parliament will allow Cameron to continue this dangerous hobby.
This is a post debating “Cutting down the Commons will cripple Cameron’s government” from Hadleigh Roberts and “Reducing MPs won’t damage government, but it’s the wrong reform” from Mark Reckons as part of the Blogger’s Circle project.