What is an MP for?

Party or constituency, which should take priority?

It might seem like a statement of the bleedin’ obvious but MPs are there (or should be) to represent the best interests of their respective constituencies both on local issues and matters of national importance.

It is not unreasonable to expect – in fact, it ought to be compulsory – that an MP should have lived in their constituency for some time before being nominated for election and continue to do so while in post. They should have intimate local knowledge and it would help if they had experience at district or county council level.

It is not acceptable that a constituency should simply be a stepping stone to greater heights. MPs elevated to a ministerial position should not be able to exempt themselves from offering an opinion on local matters and worse when a cabinet position requires your MP to follow the cabinet herd.

But that is what constituents of North West Essex (formerly Saffron Walden) constituency, have been faced with since 2017.

When Kemi Badenoch was parachuted into this ‘safe’ Conservative seat she benefited from an historically large Conservative majority. Two years later she was a junior minister and six months after that Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury. Several more appointments followed and by early 2023 Mrs Badenoch was a full-blown Secretary of State with a seat in cabinet.

This scale of meteoric rise suggests it was pre-ordained. Great for her, but perhaps not so great for her constituents.

Don’t get us wrong. We have the utmost respect for Mrs Badenoch’s work ethic, intellect, her grasp of ministerial briefs, clarity of thought, moral courage to confront tricky gender and race issues, and her ability to juggle life as a mother of three children with her parliamentary duties. That takes some doing.

But whether she is cut out to be a constituency MP or whether her role in government has been of benefit to the people of North West Essex is another matter.

There is still such a thing as the doctrine of “collective responsibility” – ministers are accountable for and responsible for the actions of HM Government as a whole, otherwise they are obliged to resign. This includes both actions in the present and the duty to correct the mistakes of the past. It is here and on the record of a government of which she has been a leading member that we struggle.

There are a lot of things about this government that we are angry about. Put simply, the government has failed in its most basic duties to look after the welfare and well being of the people. Much of this is down to nothing more, or less, than plain incompetence and an inability to think through policy options, compounded by muddled adherence to ideology and dogma.

It is perhaps harsh to judge Mrs Badenoch on national issues where she has limited influence and very little effective power. Although we wonder if prioritising your career over your principles will work out well.

What about local issues then? Here the picture again is mixed. Mrs Badenoch has a very combative approach to the district council and seems to adopt a style based on the worst aspects of tribal politics rather than the interests of her constituents. Many MPs (Anthony Browne across the border in S Cambs is an excellent example) seem to be able to ‘get on’ with their district councils notwithstanding their political complexion.

Her approach to the emerging Local Plan and the infrastructure issues arising seems to have been based on a desire to see it fail rather than a realisation that a workable plan is best for her constituents. There is a balance to be struck between robust political differences and the needs of the best interests of the community. We are not sure that the balance is right.

We say all this as individuals who are “conservative” (with a small ‘c’) by nature but struggle with the Conservative party’s incompetence and lack of care for ordinary people.

One comment on “What is an MP for?

  1. Career politicians are at the root of many of our problems – their ambitions necessarily curtailing the extent to which they are prepared to step out of line.
    What price Burke’s dictum about politicians owing their constituents their judgment if that judgment is then surrendered to a party whip?

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