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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE: A visit to the belly of the beast

We all love MPs, which is why they need protecting from us!

I have been interested in politics for a good many years, being involved with several ‘left leaning’ groups over the years. My politics are still developing.. anyone who does not constantly review where they stand are doomed to be bogged down in out dated dogma. I have become tired of party politics and am settling into the idea that my flag is probably best nailed to the anarchist pole. Somewhat ironic then that now that I have come to the conclusion that representative democracy as we know it in the UK is bankrupt, I have found myself inside the Houses of Parliament several times in the last few years, and even found myself in Number Ten last year. Today I was in Parliament again, this time taking part in a union mass lobby to protect the Local Government Pension Scheme.

I am of the opinion that lobbying is a complete waste of time, MPs do what ever they want, or increasingly in the case of the Labour Party, whatever Tony wants them to. Lobbying is worse than a waste of time; it legitimises the existence of MPs, who are merely the democratic face of the State, a State that is increasingly oppressive and war like. At the end of the day, the true power lies with the big money, the oil industry, the arms industry, the tobacco industry, media barons etc. As the old saying goes, if voting changed anything, they would make it illegal.

For reasons I wont go into here, I had to lobby the MP for Blaenau Gwent, Dai Davies. Dai is the Independent MP that represents the seat that was once the third safest Labour seat in the country, until they tried to parachute in one of Tony’s Cronies on the retirement of long standing left wing MP Llew Smith. Within minutes of meeting Dai, I actually took a like to him. Despite being an independent now, he was for a long time the chair of the local Constituency Labour Party. He resigned when Number Ten started dictating who should represent the constituency. Dai is ‘Old Labour’ through and through, an old skool socialist. If I had to spend some time in the company of an MP, Dai is probably the one MP in Wales I could talk to that was not going to make my flesh crawl.

Many of the others taking part in the lobby utilised the ‘green card’ system and hung around in the lobby hall waiting for their MP to turn up… I know a few that waited over an hour for Chris Bryant, MP for the Rhondda, who did not have the courtesy to turn up or explain why. Dai on the other hand, came looking for us before we even got into the house, coming across to the Methodist Meeting House where we were having pre-lobby briefings. We chatted for a while then he took us over to Parliament, helping us to beat the queue to get in, but not without us having to go through the airport like security to get in.

He took us up to his office and we chatted there for half an hour or so about pensions, housing stock transfer, hospital closures, the Labour Party, Trident, how most MPs have completely lost touch with their constituents, the idea that MPs pay should be tied into the average wage of their constituents, football and generally got on like a few valley boys sat in the pub. On his bookshelf were books by the likes of John Pilger and on his wall was a poster from his election campaign that had the strap line ‘Party politics is killing parliamentary democracy’. I could not agree more.

On the way out I stopped to have a chat with friends still waiting for Chris Bryant, then headed for the pub happy that although I had compromised my principles, at least I had spent time in the company of a human being.


At 4:25 pm , Anonymous Vince said...

Lobbying is rarely going to affect an MP's opinion unless you have got fat wads of cash. It can be a useful focus as part of a larger campaign though, raising the profile and involving people.
MPs are not above using people not lobbying them as an excuse for the shit they do. When I lived in Watford the local MP Claire Ward tried to argue that Stop The War didnt come lobbying her about Saddam Husseins human rights abuses before the war. We pointed out that STW didnt exist before her drive to war and that if she thinks anyone believes that lobbying her is the be-all/end-all of peoples beliefs then she is deluded.
A school trip visit to Parliament shattered some of my illusions too. I will never forget seeing the doors to the chamber opening and seeing front bench Labour opposion MP's strolling out more or less arm in arm and sharing some jolly jest with the likes of Norman Tebbit.
One of my biggest regrets though is not punching Ian Paisley in the face while I had the chance.


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