OK. Let’s start at the beginning.
The Houses of Parliament are home to Big Ben and the 650 Members of Parliament that make up Her Majesty’s Government. These MPs, ably supported by an army of civil servants, do very important work – both when working at Head Office (the House of Commons) or working from home (their constituencies). In return for this important work, MPs are paid a handsome salary. Any expenses reasonably incurred in the execution of their duties are fully reimbursed. OK, a MP’s salary, at £65,738, isn’t that handsome but then public service is its own reward.
Each MP undergoes a quadrennial performance review, known to some as a general election. Those MPs that have done well get a gold star; those that fail to meet minimum expected standards get a performance improvement plan, more commonly known as a spell on the opposition backbenches. Why am I telling you all this? To remind you, so that you in turn can remind your local MP, that they work for us – not for themselves, not for the Prime Minister and not for their party. They work for us, on our behalf and to manage the issues that are important to us. Isn’t parliamentary democracy a beautiful thing?
There’s a lot the MPs have to be getting on with at the moment. There’s the ugly economy and the hunt for elusive growth. Unemployment, at 2.8 million, is at a generational record high. Government debt, at around £1000 billion (or over £16000 for every man, woman and child in the country), is a significant drain and a worry. It’s causing the credit rating agencies heartburn too.
The Scottish nationalists, meanwhile, are revolting. They’re threatening to leave the Union. Then there’s ‘proper’ foreign policy, NHS reforms, policing, education, neglected national infrastructure …
With so many big hairy issues to address, I was delighted to learn that John Hemming, a former heavy metal drummer and now Liberal Democrat MP for Birmingham Yardley, is focused on the biggest priorities.
As evidence, I give you ‘Early Day Motion 2893’. Mr Hemming is sponsor. It reads:
That this House notes the reports in the BBC and other media outlets of the intention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to come down like a tonne of bricks on wealthy people who sell properties through offshore companies to avoid stamp duty; recognises that this is part of a trend of metrication of traditional British phrases; believes that, given that a ton is greater in weight than a tonne, this understates the Chancellor’s commitment to action; accepts that there is merit in using some metric units for measurement, but regrets the unnecessary metrication of traditional British phrases; and calls on the BBC and other media to cease the metrication of traditional phrases forthwith before people end up being exhorted not to give another 24.5 millimetres rather than not giving another inch.”
I’d like to ignore that an inch is 25.4mm, not 24.5mm as Mr Hemming, a Physics graduate from Magdalen College Oxford, suggests because that would detract from the importance of the motion and I would hate that to affect the outcome of Mr Hemming’s next quadrennial performance review.