MPs should have served in local government first

An absence of MPs in the House of Commons chamber

An absence of MPs in the House of Commons chamber - Credit: Alex Davies-Jones/Twitter

Readers continue to propose ideas for improving the calibre of politicians in the House of Commons.

Ideas abound about how to improve our politics. Recent suggestions in letters to TNE include making MPs do a work experience, having time limits on how many years they can serve, and of course the popular suggestions of reform to our voting system and to the House of Lords.

But I suggest one other change that would serve us all well in developing MPs’ credentials prior to joining the bear-pit of the Commons – and that is to have experience of having served on at least one lower tier of governance as a prerequisite to being eligible to stand for election to the House of Commons.

One of the biggest own goals of the year – the track and trace system – might have been avoided if more MPs had previously been councillors. They would have known more about how district and county councils already have experience in this field. They would not have made the crass decision to start from scratch to build a centralised system.

A spell or two as a parish/district/county councillor is an excellent training ground in learning how things are, rather than plunging from posh school and university straight into a role of decision-making about things you know little about.
Peter Tyzack
Severn Beach


Your correspondent Paul King compares the administration of the US election unfavourably with ours. However, he is not comparing like with like.
Most importantly, our elections are normally just for the House of Commons, with just the one MP being elected, or for the local council(s) with an equally simple choice. This makes the business of counting the votes simple, with just one counting venue.

The situation in the USA this month was quite different. For example, in the state of Vermont, where I lived and worked for three years, the election was not just for the president, but also for the congressman sitting in the House in Washington DC.
In addition, there were elections for six state officials: governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, state treasurer and state auditor. Then all of the seats of the Vermont Senate and the Vermont House of Representatives were also up for election. All of these separate elections would have been on a single ballot.

Other states may also have elections for judges and / or sheriffs, and some also have a number of ‘propositions’ on the ballot – effectively local referendums.
Thus counting is a far more complex business than it is here.

Russell Hafter
Lamplugh, Workington

I was interested by Tim Walker’s comments about Michael Gove building up funds for a possible leadership bid (Mandrake, TNE #219).

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Boris Johnson’s days in Downing Street are seemingly numbered and if another leadership election does take place, MPs and the Tory Party membership are going to have to think very hard.

Why was Jeremy Hunt so easily beaten in 2019? The fact that part of the membership and part of the British electorate is blinded by a populist is deeply disturbing.  

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Hunt would not have won December’s 2019 general election so emphatically, but he would have been better suited to the Covid-19 crisis. After his spell as health secretary, he is detested by much of the NHS, but Hunt is fitter and would have reacted more swiftly to events than Johnson.

David Rimmer
Hertford Heath

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