Sunday, 14 March 2010

your quote for today

"...attending to his constituency post, which meant writing instructions in pencil on top of his constituents' letters and sending them on to his Shropshire-based secretary. She was as skilled as he was. Letters complaining about the poll tax were sent to the Department of the Environment, letters about dogs and their dirt to the Home Office and letters urging that Maggie should return on to the Prime Minister's Office. Eventually replies would come, to which Joshua would add his congratulations or commiseration. MPs were post offices whose task it was to distribute complaints among those who ostensibly, at least, had the power to remedy injustice and right wrongs. It had long been Joshua's view that the backbench Tory MP was the lowest form of political life. Harold Macmillan had once said that the only quality needed by an MP was the ability to write a good letter."

this appears on page 180 of a book recently lent me by a Strasbourg-based friend. I do not ask people to guess who wrote it although the context dates it clearly to the early 1990s. It presents one view of what an MP does, and sadly too many do still operate like that, which is why they have 22,000 paper files and precious little action to show for it. The book itself is a preposterous romp set in the House of Commons, it is called Hung Parliament and was written by the late Julian Critchley MP. Some real people appear in it and some are invented, and there is a murder in the Commons.

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