Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Ever since Thatcher, who seemed to think the law of the jungle was best, politicians have been engaged in trying to work out the best way of testing efficiency and value for money in public services. Major modified CCT regulations, Blair tried Best Value, and now we seem to have settled upon a series of inspection regimes. In health and social care you have CSCI and Joint Area Reviews and the Healthcare Commission, in local government we have the Audit Commission, education has OFSTED, and on, and on. If a Council, school, or a hospital trust gets a bad inspection you will often find something in the media from your rent-a-quote politician sounding off to anyone interested on the back of an Inspectors’ report.

It got me thinking about how we performance manage our MPs. At the moment, the only real measure is the ballot box every four or five years, and often, on the flimsiest of information, we are asked to judge whether they are doing a good job or not, even though we may have had no personal contact with her or him. So… why don’t we have a Commission that will tell us about our MPs. They could arrive with a few days notice, inspect all correspondence and see how quickly and efficiently it was turned round. They could check attendance in the House of Commons (MPs would clock in) and participation in divisions, and they could do unannounced spot checks outside their advice surgeries to check with constituents how they felt they were treated, was the MP polite and helpful, etc.

Then, they could publish their reports for everyone to see whether they are achieving a one, two or three-rated service as an MP. When it came around to selection of a candidate, or at election time, people would then be able to make an informed choice… yes, choice, that phrase so much championed by the government, about whether they had an MP who met the required standards. Then, if the public re-elect an MP in the full knowledge that he or she has been a wretch for years, so be it, that’s their choice.

Just to be helpful, I have suggested a name for the new body; it could be the Commission Hoping to Improve MPs. (CHIMP).