The Socialist 5 June 2009
Action to defend union rights
A Parliament of celebrities and a speaker of integrity
The feverish debate raging about the parliamentary pig-fest is having a curious effect on the chattering classes.
Tony Mulhearn, Merseyside
The problem is that the absence of a mass party of the working class, with authority to provide a home for disaffected voters, is producing all kinds of peculiar solutions to the chronic corruption of parliament.
A list of 'changes' is being peddled such as four-yearly parliaments and a reduction in the government's power. The idea of a parliament of celebrities, a sort of 'I'm a celebrity - get me in there' also appears to be gathering momentum. The current frontrunners are Joanna Lumley, fresh from her karate chop victory over Gordon on the Gurkha issue. She emerged from the fracas praising Gordon Brown's integrity. Obviously she is an outstanding judge of character.
The white-suited Martin Bell is coyly letting it be known that he wouldn't resist too much if he were dragged kicking and screaming back into the chamber. His qualifications are that he challenged and defeated a corrupt Tory in 1997 and agreed to serve one term which, to his credit, was an undertaking he stuck to.
The problem was that he sank without trace once in the Commons, and now, by his own admission, regrets giving up his seat. When asked on Question Time on 21 May what he thought would improve parliament, his response, "Bring back Betty Boothroyd", was telling. Ms Boothroyd, it will be recalled, was amongst the most enthusiastic of New Labour witch-hunters.
Fair enough, some celebs, such as Ken Loach, who last year spoke on a CNWP platform calling for a new mass party of the working class, make the occasional erudite observation. Ricky Tomlinson holds similar views. Unfortunately, celebrities like these are a rarity.
The Observer list of possible celebrity MPs contained Richard 'I don't believe it' Wilson. He could represent the grumpy old men. Tony Robinson, Baldrick from Blackadder, would no doubt produce many a cunning plan to solve the country's economic turmoil.
Then there's Anne Robinson, former scribbler for Robert Maxwell and cheerleader for former Labour leader Neil Kinnock's attack on the Liverpool 47. She could seek out socialist MPs who had somehow slid under the radar and entered parliament as a result of PR, and accusing them of being the weakest link, she would turf them out, as befell Dave Nellist in the 1990s.
Linked to the claims fiasco is the departure of 'working-class' Speaker Martin. Who will be his replacement? The idea that MP for Birkenhead Frank Field, a man of so-called integrity and moral rectitude, should be the next speaker of the house is being assiduously cultivated by the media on Merseyside.
But what is the sainted Frank's stance on the major issues facing the mass of the working class? Apart from being very keen on coming down hard on 'scroungers' - benefit scroungers that is, not the scrounging bankers, his voting record on the big issues receives scant attention.
Here is a flavour of Frank's political views: he voted for introducing ID cards, foundation hospitals and student top-up fees; He voted very strongly for the Iraq war and very strongly against an investigation into the Iraq war; He also voted very strongly for replacing Trident, but never voted on laws to stop climate change.
This is not to suggest that Frank is any worse than the rest of the Blair/Brown herd that has hijacked the Labour Party and turned it into a grotesque imitation of the Tory Party. But is this the record of an MP possessing moral rectitude?
To be fair to Frank, the Commons is unlikely to vote for him because he is way down the list when it comes to directorships and expenses claims. But history shows that sometimes right-wing ascetics are useful to the ruling class when it comes to defending and cleaning up their system.
In this issue
Workplace news and analysis
Socialist Party election campaign
Socialist Party feature
Socialist Party review
Marxist analysis: history