Tom Harris

三级成人视频Members of Parliament can have a very inflated opinion of their own importance. This is a nugget of news that can be filed alongside “Religion of the Pope” and “Preferred toilet practices of bears”. 

There is little more infuriating to a generation raised to scorn old fashioned notions of deference and respect for authority than to witness MPs behaving as if they’re the supreme power in the land. 

三级成人视频But here’s the thing: they are. 

This will come as something of a shock to many. After all, in a democracy it’s the people who are in charge, yes? MPs are supposed to be the servants of the people, ready and willing to take orders from us and to bend the knee whenever a protester picks up a loudhailer. A politician’s only job, surely, is to ask, “How high?” in response to their constituents’ command to jump.

Alas for armchair constitutional theorists, they are missing a crucial piece of the puzzle. For an MP possesses something extraordinary and (within each constituency in the United Kingdom) unique: an electoral mandate to sit in the House of Commons. Yes, they are accountable to those who elected them, because however long a parliament lasts, the right to remove that MP at the first available opportunity is sacrosanct and unavoidable. But in the meantime, between elections, our elected representatives have authority. It’s a temporary authority, leased for a limited time, but it’s real. Not respecting or acknowledging that authority might make you feel good about Sticking It To The Man (or Woman), but it will have no diminishing effect on said authority.

三级成人视频All of this is to frame, in proper context, the fight that is about to take place at Westminster for MPs that has resulted from Dame Laura Cox’s 2018 inquiry into bullying and harassment on the parliamentary estate. It’s likely that MPs will insist on the right to approve or reject any recommendations where a parliamentarian accused of misconduct is to be suspended from the House.

This prospect has met with strong opposition from staff unions and some staff themselves. After all, isn’t this a bit like allowing MPs to mark their own homework? How can any new process be genuinely independent if decisions taken by the new independent disciplinary body can be overturned by the Commons?

Critics point to the case of Lord Lester, the Liberal Democrat peer who stood accused of sexual harassment in 2018 and whom an inquiry recommended a four-year suspension from the House of Lords. But colleagues on the red benches chose to reject the report and Lester’s membership continues. 

But instead of Lester’s case they should point to that of former Labour MP Keith Vaz三级成人视频, whose suspension, following an investigation into allegations he offered to buy drugs for male sex workers, was approved by the Commons last year without debate. On a matter of pure process, it is surely acceptable that open-and-shut cases that include (in Vaz’s case) video and witness evidence are dealt with more efficiently and cleanly than cases (such as Lester’s) which come down to one person’s word against another’s.

But even this is missing the crucial point. Where an MP is to be deprived of their rights to represent and speak for their constituents, it is vital that such a fundamental constitutional sanction is not imposed by an unelected and unaccountable group of officials. The right to be represented in parliament is too important to be discarded by any body other than the House of Commons itself (aside from MPs who commit crimes and receive jail sentences and who are therefore removed, either temporarily or permanently, by the courts). Democracy as a principle can sometimes be delegated – via ministers’ executive authority, for example. But it would be profoundly dangerous to acquiesce to the removal of democratic rights by anyone other than MPs in the case of misdemeanours over which the criminal justice system has no purview.

It’s perfectly understandable that critics fear that the “old boys network” of MPs might organise to let a colleague off the hook, even when the case against them seems watertight. They are right to raise such fears because that would be entirely within the rights of MPs. Again, we need to return to democratic first principles: any action and any vote cast by an MP is subject to scrutiny and to the voters’ judgment at the next election. MPs are not at the beck and call of their constituents, they are not obliged to ask them their opinion on everything and then vote accordingly. What they owe their constituents is their judgment, and if that judgment is found to be unpopular, the MP can be rendered unemployed at the next election.

Insisting that an unelected and independent group of people can decide to reverse the democratic decision of voters in a particular constituency may satisfy the bloodlust of those who feel that our parliamentarians need to be taken down a peg or two. But it would be a democratic sacrifice too far. Let MPs make the decision and let them answer for that decision at the ballot box.