The Crown in Parliament is sovereign because consent is secured through the election of representatives of the people. The sole qualification for participating in the proceedings of the House of Commons being election by the voters.
Parliament has been careless with that sovereignty in the past by passing power to others so that we increasingly came to be governed by people that we do not elect and whom we cannot remove, and we gave that sovereignty away without ever seeking the explicit consent of voters, indeed the political class denied that it was happening and sought to conceal it from them.
The referendum result of June 2016 can be seen as a revolt
by the electorate in protest at that process and a demand that their
sovereignty be re-possessed.
It is still unclear this week as to how, or indeed whether, Parliament is going to carry out that instruction.
Old habits die hard however, and in a little noticed 35 minute debate on Monday night –with no dissenting voice being heard – The Commons was at it again: We passed what I consider to be an enormous constitutional innovation; hitherto the sole qualification for participating in the proceedings of the House of Commons has been through election, but on Monday we gave that right to 7 members of the public who will not be elected by anyone, but who will have the right to vote in the proceedings of a parliamentary committee, and that their votes will carry equal weight with the 7 MPs on that committee of the House of Commons.
I think that this is the thin end of an enormous wedge. It sets
a most unwelcome precedent.
If you don’t like the way your MP votes in Parliament, you can use your own vote at the next election to have him or her replaced: Your MP is accountable to you at the ballot box.
In what way will the 7 members of the public be accountable?
It matters not that the committee in question is the
Standards & Privileges Committee which examines the conduct of fellow MPs.
The argument is that MPs should not be able to ‘mark their own homework’, well
of course they shouldn’t, but then they don’t -and they can’t. It is for that
very reason that the committee exists.
Anyway I’ve heard that specious argument before. It was used when MPs used to vote on the terms of their own remuneration, counterintuitively the pay and remuneration was much lower then.
When we handed that responsibility away to an independent and unaccountable body, that body imposed a 10% increase at a time when anyone else was lucky to get 1% and we had the ridiculous situation with the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the Lib Dem leader all begging the independent body to change its mind –which, of course, it didn’t.
I would have wagered that MPs, who have to look their constituents in the eye, would have been rather more sensitive about awarding themselves a pay increase in those circumstances.