Thursday 14 May 2009

Sweep out "them and us" system at the big House

What it must be to wander into the House of Commons as an MP. Doors are opened for you, you are ferried to the front of queues for coffee and taxis, the system is steeped in deference.
It must be hard to resist the idea that you are some kind of superhuman who has an access all areas pass.
Some traditions can be picturesque and worth saving, but for centuries MPs have had people serving at their pleasure in the palace.
That same kind of "them and us" pervades the culture: creating a Victorian master and servant mentality which would not have been out of place at a grand country house of the 1890s.
So perhaps it is not surprising that staff at the Commons find it hard to resist their master's bidding. I'd bet good money that over the years staff at the fees office have been thundered at - and told "do you know who I am?" if they questioned an invoice or an expense claim. I bet there was a good deal of swanning about, and haughtiness if anyone dared to raise a query.
Time for that kind of class culture to be swept away with other reforms that might be teetering on the brink. A new modern era should be good for everyone. Combine that with a House that feels like it is for the public, not a closeted space for the elite, and time really will have started changing for the better.
The new Scottish parliament has got to be a good model - there is a different feel in those corridors of power - open to the public and for the public. Less deference, and less cap tipping, and we might all feel a bit more at home in the big House.

1 comment:

Calix said...

Quite right. Apart from anything else, the Commons is a very intimidating building designed to make the ordinary person seem insignificant, and to boost the self-importance of its custodians.