Monday, 5 September 2011

Back to School

Ah September, when the sound of squeaky new school shoes can be heard in our land once again; when the whites of crisp new shirts dazzles the eye like no sun ever did this summer; when pencils are sharpened, bags packed and unfamiliar yet familiar journeys taken.

Yes, it's back to school time again and not just for our children (except, perhaps, in the loosest sense). Because today also marks the day when our beloved MPs return to the parliamentary bear-pit or - as they so quaintly refer to it - 'work'. Some, no doubt in common with the thousands of servicemen who received redundancy notices last Friday, may be doing so for the last time. But not half enough of them. Because amid all the many (and necessary) cuts there have been to public services, amid the redundancy notices and rationalisations, there seems to have been one notable public institution to have escaped completely. While MPs wring their hands about the pain of putting people out of work, while Ministers moulder on about each sector of the economy shouldering its fair share of the burden, while every public institution from schools and hospitals to the police and the armed forces seems fair game for each fell swoop of the Osborne axe our dear old MPs - and their local equivalent, the councillors - seem to sally forth regardless.

And yet, they're not cheap. Salaries, expenses, not to mention the cost of administering the ridiculous process that gets them elected, would all amount to a considerable saving I'm sure. Do we need so many of them? Do we need elected representatives at every level from the Parish Council to the European Parliament? I feel sure there's a bit of slack in the system. I'm certain there's scope for a few redundancies. And you never know, a leaner, fitter Town Hall might actually work better; fewer 'yah boos' shouting in Parliament might actually make the debates a bit smarter. I'm all for a bit of democracy, in its place. After all, it's been what people in Libya have been fighting for all summer.

But you can have too much of a good thing, surely?