Its the summer holiday season for MPs. For them its even better than the school holidays. Far too many. What’s the solution? Give ’em more, writes The Currer Ball.
Politician (n) a legislator, decision-maker, servant of the people, characterised by faculties of intelligence, sagacity, industry, diligence.
Holiday (n) a period of absence from work, when one relaxes and reclines, frequently in sundrenched foreign climates, characterised above all by nothing.
– Harper English Dictionary, 1911
It’s easy to see why we get so pissed off by MPs and their summer holidays. Someone we don’t like, for whom we probably didn’t even vote, whose job it is to earn and spend our money, who votes for holidays longer than Wendi Murdoch’s pins, who then earns and spends our money from pool side, horizontal on a lounger, alternating between colada and sangria.
‘I just need some me-time’, says one MP. ‘Corsica just suits my style.’
Aww! If we’d only known that it was all about ‘me-time’, we’d never have been so pissed off.
Last week, on 20 July, Parliament closed its doors. They won’t reopen ‘til 5 September. And nothing too strenuous first day back: the House won’t sit ‘til half 2. And get ready for this: they’re on holiday again a week and-a-half after that. But at least they’ll be inconspicuous about it, subjecting us to the nauseating 4 week spectacle that is party conference season.
10 weeks over 2 holidays, climaxed by those self-indulgent exhibitions. Meantime, the rest of us just get on with living our lives.
The consensus seems to be, even among the MPs themselves, that recess is way too long. The summer holiday before last, MPs got 85 days. David Cameron described that as ‘absurd’. So last year, MPs got 41 days, followed by 9 days back in the office, followed by another 26 days holiday. All in, 67 days. This summer, they’ve gone one better with 68 days off.
It’s easy to ridicule MPs for this, and even easier to argue that their holidays should be, like everything else, cut.
But like a lot of easy arguments, it’s wrong.
The first point to make’s that the 68 day ‘holiday’ isn’t really a ‘holiday’ at all. MPs don’t simply jet off to some exotic location mid-July, live it up for circa 7 weeks, only to reemerge with bronzed body and Bermuda shorts when Parliament starts up again.
The reality is that the vast majority of MPs take a couple of weeks off (just like the rest of us) then get back to work. Because for the other whatever number of weeks, they’re busy in their constituencies. Summer recess allows MPs to rupture the parallel universe of the Westminster bubble, a place from where ordinary people are governed but no ordinary people reside.
It isn’t a good thing for MPs to be encased in the cocoon of the Palace, Whitehall, and Portcullis House for any longer than is absolutely necessary. After all, it was precisely that detachment from reality outside Westminster that gave us the expenses scandal and politicians who couldn’t even see that what they were doing, and claiming for, was wrong.
But why 68 days? Wouldn’t 30 days back in their constituencies suffice? Well, maybe it would. But there’s another, more compelling reason why MPs should be barred from Parliament for so long. That reason is this: MPs aren’t very good at what they do.
For those of you who grumble that 68 days is too long, why do you? What is it that MPs do that makes the prospect of 3 months off so undesirable? What does the absence of MPs from Parliament deprive us of exactly?
To scale down the summer recess would only increase the opportunity for MPs to pass unnecessary laws that unnecessarily impinge on all our lives. Anything that counteracts the tendency of politicians to over-legislate shouldn’t be sniffed at.
68 days? I say extend it. Let’s give them a nice round 100 days off. That way, we can all just get on with living our lives.
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