The furore over the Conservative Party voting against school meals for children last October raised a very pertinent question:
Why did MPs vote against the motion? What earthly reason could they use to justify allowing children to go hungry?
Some were asked by their local newspapers or media outlets and their responses were published.
The inescapable conclusion is that party politics was at the root of the disgraceful decision that required Marcus Rashford to step in and resolve it. The motion was put forward by “the other lot” and therefore we will vote against it or abstain – same difference.
What can we do to make MPs more openly accountable for these votes?
Purely from the people’s point of view, we would like to see each MP state:
- Party, constituency and prime area of responsibility if applicable
- Annual income from all sources
- Stated reason for voting as they did.
This list should be published in Hansard and made available to all media outlets for republication.
We believe strongly that this would test their integrity and make them more readily accountable.
Of course, party politics and the party whips will always be the main drivers of votes like that one – but it should not be the case when the lives and wellbeing of families suffer as a result.
Excuses MPs gave
You can read some of the reasons MPs put forward when questioned in this short sample:
Accountability is the bedrock of representative democracy
MPs, our representatives, should be held responsible (i.e. accountable) for their actions and voting decisions and not just at the next election but every time they vote in Parliament.
The Public Authority (Accountability) Bill 2016-17 was due for its second reading in Parliament in May 2017 but a General Election was called and the bill was abandoned.
One if its proposed objectives was:
“To set a requirement on public institutions, public servants and officials and on those carrying out functions on their behalf to act in the public interest and with candour and frankness..”
Expand the scope from Public Authorities to Parliament and give the public greater transparency about how MPs vote.
It would go a long way to restoring some public confidence in government and its mechanisms, which is sorely lacking in 2021.
Vested interests can drive voting in a hidden manner
An amusing but striking graphic circulated on social media calling for all MPs to wear emblems, logos or names of their major financial donors. The notion was based on F1 drivers who are contractually obliged to wear the advertising logos of their teams’ sponsors on their racing uniforms.
While Parliamentary regulations require MPs to declare all donations above a certain value and that information is available to the public, one has go and search for it. The mainstream media could easily publish it on a regular basis but it’s unlikely that their paymasters or owners would approve.
But favours take many forms and not just hard cash.
How money shapes our politics
Giant corporations hold sway in US politics, within both parties. Lobbying is big business because it works there. No doubt significant budgets are allocated for that activity.
Even comparatively simple corporate-sponsored fact finding trips, or junkets, here in the UK are often to sunny climes like the Bahamas in winter – never Greenland in January. Other states use this ploy too to curry favour with the UK government.
Here is a good article written by a currently sitting MP that provides an insider view about how this mechanism works, unseen by the public.
As long as MPs get away with voting in way their constituents vehemently disagree with, government can quite brazenly and confidently act against the people’s interests.