Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Advice From Chris Mullin

If you are a parliamentary candidate at the next election, you could do worse than clicking HERE to read Chris Mullin's column in today's Times, where he seeks to give parliamentary aspirants some well meant advice. Here's a taster...

Attend to the needs of your constituents, but don’t overdo it. Some colleagues do relatively little in the House and instead spend every waking hour searching out constituents with problems in order to create the illusion of activity. I advise against this. In any case, it makes very little difference as to whether or not you will be re-elected. Remember, one of the main functions of a backbencher is to hold the executive to account. Something we do imperfectly.

At the outset, you have a fundamental decision to make. Do you want to be constituency-based or Westminster-based? There is no one true path. Everyone’s circumstances vary. The office costs allowance is these days sufficient to enable you to employ two or three people. Some colleagues choose to employ staff at both ends which, in my experience, does not work well. Some, with constituencies nearer London, tend to be based in Westminster. I chose to base my staff entirely in my constituency office, which is open to callers during the week, thereby reducing the pressure on surgeries.

You don’t necessarily need staff in the House. There is a wonderful (and sadly underused) library with brilliant staff who can quickly produce briefings on any subject under the sun.

Be warned. There is a good deal of pointless activity in politics. I urge you to minimise it. Do not confuse busy-ness with effectiveness. Above all, do not neglect your family.

Finally, respect your opponents. Remember, we have the good fortune to live in a mature democracy that, for all its imperfections, is vastly superior to most alternatives. We are not actually trying to kill each other. It is only an election. One side will lose. One side will win. And the loser will live to fight another day.

I hope you find this useful. Good luck.


Enlightened Despot said...

He was over-suspicious of outside interests when he was a Minister, but as with everything else he has written this is spot on. It's a shame that the political class will ignore much of his advice.

Tapestry said...

One might add the public's view of MPs has sunk to an all time low due to the expenses scandal. That view could sink far lower still if the public generally start to suspect that fraud is deciding who the MPs are in the first place.

There is a good piece on CH today by Woodman about how rife fraud is in Britain. In 2005 they got away with it and no one really noticed.

In 2010 Britain is more aware of what might be going on. IF Labour pull a rabbit out of the hat this time, I can imagine a very negative and highly chraged atmosphere between MPs and people will result.

EPG said...

It's easy for Chris Mullin to condemn his colleagues who look for casework; he has a very small, very compact and very safe seat.

JohnRS said...

Never mind "will ignore it" most of them already have. But our memories are long and our vengence will be total.

Joe Public said...

"Finally, respect your opponents."


Finally, "Don't fiddle your expenses."

Unknown said...

Edward Gaffney said...
"It's easy for Chris Mullin to condemn his colleagues who look for casework; he has a very small, very compact and very safe seat."

More to the point, he is standing down at the next general election.