Independent MPs Democracy Forum
Tuesday March 16 at 6.30pm, Houses of Parliament, Westminster.
- Professor Philip Cowley (academic and author of Revolts and Rebellions: Parliamentary Voting Under Blair),
Chris Mullin MP (Labour MP for Sunderland South)
- Cllr Diane Park (independent PPC for Halifax)
- Dr Richard Taylor MP (independent MP for Wyre Forest)
Chair: Virginia Gibbons (Head of Communications, Hansard Society)
Dr Richard Taylor MP started off the discussion by saying that being an independent in Parliament meant concentrating and understanding what you were voting on, and trying to decide on which way to vote on the basis of conscience and constituency views, as their is no split allegiance between constituency and party for independents. Chris Mullin MP was next and said that although he had great respect for Dr Taylor, he was sceptical of how much an independent MP could acheive in Parliament, although they can 'light up an otherwise dull world'. He also pointed out that it is possible to take an independent stand whilst still being a party politician, and used the examples of him voting against the Iraq war and Trident to prove his point. Cllr Diane Park said the MPs should spend more time listening to constituents and not be buried under a weight of legislation and said that independent MPs' votes in Parliament are the weathervane of the views of the people. Professor Phillip Cowley, spoke last and said that luckily independent MPs in the last few Parliaments have been of a great quality. In relation to the division of an MP's time he pointed to a Hansard Society study of MPs in 2005 which found that MPs spent around 50% of their time in their constituency; Professor Cowley said that he thought this was too much as the scrutiny of legislation is as important and will ultimately affect more people that can be affected by taking up individual constituency cases.
The Q&A session brought out other interesting issues such as independent candidates' role in electing diametrically opposed candidates, what would happen if Whips did not exist and a discussion around the decline of the party system.
Dr Richard Taylor MP & Chris Mullin MP
Cllr Diane Park & Professor Phillip Cowley