Friday, July 29, 2005

Simon Hughes needs a holiday

Here is today's House Points column from Liberal Democrat News. It is the last of the current season, but anyone suffering withdrawal symptoms over the summer can find an archive of my earlier columns here.

Holiday time

When the England cricket team loses an overseas test, the management organises extra net sessions for the next day. Not because the players need more practice, but because the authorities want it to look as though something is being done.

Some people want MPs to cut short their summer recess for much the same reason. They are not sure what it would achieve, but at least it would look good.

We can agree it was odd for Charles Clarke to choose this week to pack his trunk and that Tony Blair should rely on cosmetics for his tan a little longer. But it is hard to see the point of recalling MPs to Westminster before October.

There is talk of new laws, but what can there be about plotting, preparing and carrying out a terrorist attack that is not already illegal?

This anger at MPs’ long break is a cousin to that “they never do anything, they’re in it for themselves” whine you sometimes get on the doorstep.

The real problem is just the reverse. These days MPs are expected to be a cross between a social worker, a local councillor and a fairy godmother. They must vote for all the petty laws that get passed in the hope they will make their constituents leave them in peace. It doesn’t work. They come back with even more trivial problems.

One person who could certainly do with a holiday is our own President, Simon Hughes. He was quoted in the Guardian on Tuesday as blaming a few people at Conference for the wacky ideas that sometimes end up as party policy. But we all know those wacky ideas usually originate in Federal Policy Committee working parties.

And he suggested the party should advertise in the press for PPCs to get away from the idea that “only people who have been activists for 15 years and have delivered a million leaflets can be candidates”.

If he means a party needs philosophers, economists and novelists as well as activists, he is right. But our opponents would hang a crass idea like advertising for candidates round our necks for years afterwards.

Simon should take his shrimping net off to Herne Bay for a week or two and return refreshed for the fight.

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