Recent events such as bankers’ bonuses and the current debacle over the Health and Social Care Bill illustrate that there is clearly a resurgence of Parliament, its power and the role it plays in politics. Coalition politics is good for Parliament and MPs have re-discovered an appetite for leading the debate on issues that they believe reflect public opinion and national concerns. MPs seem to have put the expenses scandal behind them and found a new confidence to criticise others on matters of remuneration although one can’t help feeling they should exercise some caution…
So what has led to this Parliamentary resurgence?
Clearly the most significant factor is Coalition government. There are a large number of Tories who have little incentive to be loyal and ‘climb the ladder’ and therefore realise they have to generate their own publicity and profile. And on the Lib Dem side they need to constantly demonstrate that they are different to their Conservative counterparts and are responsible for ‘reigning’ in Conservative policies. The Prime Minister is not known for investing in his backbenchers and many feel he treats them with contempt but he must be reconsidering his approach. And on the Labour benches, well there is a general frustration with the direction and effectiveness of the leadership and so that provides a chance for all to comment.
Badly drafted and controversial legislation is also a factor in terms of providing lots of opportunities for comment and debate. Using Opposition Day debates and Backbench Business Days, Parliamentarians have plenty of opportunities to air their views and disagree with Government policy. The Health and Social Care Bill is a case in point.
Post the expenses scandal, many of the new intake of MPs feel that the role of the MP has been diminished and damaged and therefore they want to reinstate some profile and influence for both themselves and the institution of Parliament. With the BBC reporting that over half of MPs tweet, the new generation are looking to social media to help raise issues and highlight campaigns, showcasing their activities in Parliament.
So forget Parliament at your peril, Parliamentarians are rediscovering their voices and fighting back.