James Wallis is a third year Political Science student at the University, who has kindly contributed to us this article.
Today there is a Speakers’ Conference underway in Westminster, which is looking at how we can make Parliament more representative. This is certainly a good thing. The more diverse the interests represented in Parliament, the better our democracy is. I, however, don’t think that they have gone far enough.
Recently, Chloe Smith was elected as MP for Norwich North. She is now the ‘Baby of the House’, at the tender age of 27. Most, if not all, members of BUCF will be of voting age, and yet we have no representation, and I will have none for another six years. At the other end of the scale, there are only 14 MPs over the age of 70, and yet this is a huge proportion of our society with substantially different needs to many other demographics. So why is no-one calling for these two age groups to be given better representation? The elderly are generally regarded as the most likely to vote and the young are ignored as apathetic. Maybe some representation would help. Perhaps we should go back to having constituencies for Universities, but then we would have far too many MPs. Instead, perhaps interest groups should have a seat. For example the National Union of Students, or a charity which helps the elderly. But how far would this go, and how would you form political parties from these groups, let alone a coherent government?
The other problem is what background an MP should have. Should they have been in the military and showed patriotism, or been lawyers so they understand the legislation. Should they have worked in the voluntary sector or in big business? Should they have worked 9-5 jobs their entire life like most of the population, or should they be used to going home at 11pm. Surely we need teachers and doctors to be represented. But which constituency is represented by a teacher and which by a doctor? Why bother having elections at all, when we could just appoint people so that we have represented all the elements of society. Except they wouldn’t actually represent anybody.
My point here is that we should, of course, encourage people from all backgrounds to stand for Parliament. However I don’t believe that any MP will represent my interests exactly, unless I am that MP. So it doesn’t matter to me whether my MP is male or female, gay or straight, young or old. We live in a representative democracy, and surely the most important quality an MP can have is the ability to represent our views.