Peter Hoskin

Empty seats in Parliament

Empty seats in Parliament
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So here's a new controversy for politicians to get mired in: select committee absenteeism.  Today's Times has a double-page spread naming and shaming some of those politicians who "routinely skip" the meetings of committees they belong to.  Last year, for instance, Nadine Dorries went to just 2 percent of the Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills meetings (UPDATE: Dorries offers an explanation on her blog); Bob Spink likewise.  You can find a more detailed roll call here.  

Now, I'm not going to comment on individual cases.  MPs, including those mentioned above, may well have solid reasons for not attending (cf, Nadine Dorries: "This committee is chaired by someone not fit").  But there are enough hints in the article that some MPs regard select committees as beneath them, and that some absences are "strange" or inexplicable.  Either way, all this just undermines the stature of select committees - which are supposed to scrutinise the government - whilst reinforcing the impression that politicians are taking taxpayers for a ride.

The Jacqui Smith row really has opened the floodgates.  Every day, the papers contain new, dispiriting revelations about our political representatives.  And the public's faith in the political class is being eroded to the point of destruction.  This drip-drip-drip of damaging stories will continue until Parliamentarians get their House in order.  It's a pity, then, that many - Brown among them - don't seem to regard that as a matter of urgency.

P.S. The Sun is running an article about John Prescott being the "laziest MP in Labour".

P.P.S. Dizzy has a more irreverent take here.