How we could choose better MPs?
We first started thinking about what made a good MP in Autumn 2019, just a few weeks as it later turned out, prior to the General Election.
The version of these proposals we published then was prompted by what we saw as a decline in public standards and the competence of MPs to hold the Government to account. Parliament was in a state of paralysis. The minority Government, led by a Prime Minister without his own democratic mandate, was both incapable of agreeing a way forward on Brexit and was increasingly adopting autocratic tendencies to force MPs to submit to its will. Those that did not were expelled or resigned.
Meanwhile, the Opposition was in rebellion and many of the most experienced MPs in both parties simply gave up. An unparalleled 74 (11%) did not re-stand, with seven of them having had the whip withdrawn in the previous two years for disreputable reasons.
And over the past four years things have got even worse. There are eighteen independent MPs in the current Parliament in what one MP described to me as “the party of Fraudsters, Sexters and anti-Semites”, making the group (were there such a thing), considerably larger than the Liberal Democrats.
Clearly something needs to be done and it is not enough to rely on the parties to put their own houses in order. For this reason, we are re-publishing an updated version of our 2019 recommendations. Furthermore we are doing this earlier in the electoral cycle, in the hope that not only the parties themselves may give them serious consideration, but that local campaigners will adopt them – or their own versions of them – and press candidates at the 2024 general election to test how they match up to the Radix Person Specification to be an MP.
While we think it unlikely that any potential candidate will have the self-awareness to then decide not to stand, we hope that the test will at least inform the thinking of the electorate and maybe even help them to avoid the odd unsuitable candidate.