Political patronage and a scaled down Parliament

Yesterday’s Guardian carried an article by Sarah Wollaston that raised an issue of profound significance for British democracy. The issue is the Government “payroll vote”. Some 150 of the coalition’s MPs are on the payroll. That means that they are bound by collective responsibility to vote with the Government. They cannot depart from the Government line, at least in public. Nearly a quarter of these votes are held by Parliamentary Private Secretaries (PPS). The PPSs have no real independent influence on Government policy. They are simply lobby fodder which can be used to make it a bit less challenging to secure support in the chamber for Government proposals.

This raises at least two important questions for democratic practice – one old, one new. Read more of this post


An informed view on health reform (a comment on a comment)

Guardian Cif posted a fascinating comment piece the other day under the title To avoid NHS privatisation, Lansley must change course. The author is clearly well-informed and provides a thoughtfully balanced assessment of the need for change. She demonstrates a sound grasp of the risks associated with a rushed or botched approach to reform. The piece argues that unless the Government is very careful there is a risk that people’s genuine concerns about Andrew Lansley’s fundamental reorganisation of the NHS – that it is in fact an attempt to privatise the system – will turn out to be well-founded. Read more of this post