04 January 2008

Taking Part in Parliament

The Scotsman reports that Labour are wondering if being in Opposition need be a barrier to proposing legislation, especially given that the Government does not have a majority. The report suggests that Labour MSPs have their own ideas for legislation that the want to take forward.

The criticism in the paper is that, "Labour also has to avoid the impression that it is simply trying to put forward legislation due to sour grapes, because it lost the election." Personally, I think that if anything, the reverse is true: this shows Labour as willing to take part in the full parliamentary process and - as this will be necessary - engage with other parties: not just the Liberal Democrats, but also the Tories or even - whisper it - the SNP. And why not? They were willing to support SNP legislation in the form of the Abolition of Bridge Tolls Bill - though not willing to support the Graduate Endowment Abolition Bill (which is probably just as well, as Labour would perhaps propose replacing the Endowment with either upfront fees or English-style top-up fees) - so there's no reason why the SNP should opt to support or oppose a Labour Bill before they've read it.

Indeed, if I were to make one criticism of Labour, it would be this: that it's taken from May until January for them to consider this a possibility. And even then, I would point out that they've still managed to steal a march on the other Opposition parties, who have advanced nothing formally. So if Labour have ideas for legislation, let's hear them. Indeed, their MSPs (and those of other parties) have been willing to launch Members' Bills on their own initiative, so using the Committees to propose and discuss legislation is a good way forward.

Let's face it: this is a good idea. And if Labour can have a good idea like this, surely some of their legislative ideas migh not necessarily be a bad thing either. We should all wait and see what they come up with. Some of it I'll probably moan about, but other suggestions might be worth looking at. After all, this is the age of new politics, of consensus-building and open debate winning the day, so Labour should be involved in that - it's only right.


Julie said...

Yeah, i'm all in favour of that. It means that everyone has to take responsibility for law making, and cuts out a lot of the ya boo stuff that opposition parties indulge in,in Westminster. It also means you're using a bigger pool of talent (intellectual). Is there any tottie at Holyrood?

Ted Harvey said...

I see great dangers for the democratic process from such a development. It would further hasten the removal of ideology from politics (Something I know that many will welcome, but I see it as part of the long-term malaise of Western democracies).

Perhaps of more popular concern would be the continued blurring of specific identities of political parties and their underlying values and principles. I think that your comments in your earlier, and intriguing post of 'the future' on the portents for the LibDems in Scotland are very telling and relevant to what might arise for all parties if anyone can start proposing legislation.

Another interesting question is what practical effect would such a development have on individual MSPs – especially with the baleful rise and rise of career politicians?

Might such careerists actually decide that the risks and responsibilities of being in Government Office are less attractive than the less demanding role of Opposition with the option of periodically proposing legislation? Perhaps resulting in a whole new train of ‘Rotten boroughs’ wherein the MSP does nothing but that that best locally serves his or her personal longevity as a popular local MSP? Would this be a bad or good thing?

Hmmm… and the New Year has only started.

Richard Havers said...

I agree, it's a good idea.

Ted, it's been an awful long while since ideology had anything to do with politics - putting to one side the SNP and Independence that is.

Ted Harvey said...

Richard Havers you somewhat destroy your own statement about ideology when you exclude the SNP, given that it is the most important driver in Scottish (and potentially British) politics in almost a generation. In which case, ideology is very much alive and kicking.

But anyway it's not true that it's been an awful long time since ideology has had anything to do with politics. It is true that our politics elites with their ever more careerist and consumer-marketing practices have excluded, derided and disempowered anyone or any movement with any ideological commitments or inclinations.

Hence the ongoing hollowing-out and increasing meaningless of conventional politics to more and more, probably now the majority, of voters and potential voters.

Most of the people really are not stupid most of the time and they comprehend that without some sort of ideological underpinning politics becomes a populist charade with 'the elector' having no hope of means of changing anything fundamental. Hence the dangerous situation our conventional political road is taking us - ideal ground for some one of seeming 'strength' and 'speaking for the people' etc. to emerge. After all. we can see this scenario having happened many times before.

No reason why the British scene should be immune from such a phenomenon. The continued blurring and neutering of any sense of differentiation between the political parties would be a preparatory activity for the phenomenon to be realised.

Julie McAnulty said...

Suppose that means there's no tottie at Holyrood then (sigh).Seriously, since devolution and proportional representation, things have moved much faster politically up here than they have at Westminster. The smoking ban, personal care for the elderly, student fees. We've also been able to be different from England on vital issues. I shout loud and long about PFI, but privatisation up here is nowhere near as bad as it is down south. (It's because I know how bad it could get that I shout so loud about it.)I also predict that having proportional rep at council level will take out a lot of the career politicians and put in people who are genuinely interested in their community; Save St Johns i Livingston with three independent councillors has blazed the trail for that. I think politics in Scotland is set to become more idealistic.