Politics Magazine

Quizzing Your MP? Why Not?

Posted on the 30 April 2014 by Thepoliticalidealist @JackDarrant

The Hansard Society, an organisation dedicated to promoting public understanding and participation in politics, has made some recommendations following the its publication of an annual survey. The Society says that confidence in the political system has stopped declining. Although, with just 14% of the survey’s respondents agreeing that they had “some influence” over national decision making, it’s hardly a resounding vote of confidence.

The Hansard Society has suggested that, although nothing short of a transformation of our political culture will reverse the tide of apathy and mistrust which threatens to drown our democracy, there are some practices we could introduce which would catalyze this change. One such idea is the hosting of biannual Peoples’ Question Times. Two days per year would be set aside in which all MPs would host events in their constituencies where voters could question them on their activities in Parliament, similar to Prime Ministers’ Questions but on a local level. These days would attract massive media coverage as all 650 MPs would be doing this simultaneously.

It’s true that constituents already have the ability to question their MP on any local or political matter, but People’s Question Times (PQTs) would be much more open and potentially influential than correspondence by email or letter. And yes, depending on how PQTs are administered, loons and political opponents will attempt to use this platform against their MP. Nevertheless, that will be offset by the thousands of people who will feel empowered by the experience of constructively discussing issues with their local MP in a public meeting.

Societies around the world have tried various combinations of methods to restore vivacity to their democratic systems. Electoral reform, compulsory voting, localism… We must always be improving the way representative democracy works, but that only pays off if what our representatives do on our behalf also improves. That’s why initiatives like PQTs must not be saturated with negativity or partisanship. The public are fed up of negative politics. They want to ask not what the other candidate won’t do for them, but what their MP can do for their country.

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