UK Politics

A Question for John Redwood: Are MPs Representatives or Delegates?

5 Feb 2013 at 15:49

John Redwood is a man of many opinions. Most of them are ones I agree with. He is a man I have immense respect and admiration for. I regard him as a friend. He’s also a superb blogger. So it was with some degree of horror that I read his blogpost on today’s gay marriage vote. This is how his blogpost ends.

My consultation with constituents has been wide ranging. Some have responded to the website request on the blog, where a majority favour the Bill by a margin of 4 to 1. I have also had 96 letters against and 7 in favour in reply. More have responded to my Parliamentary email, where a large majority have opposed the Bill. In the last two days alone I have had 4 emails in favour and 45 against. I am very conscious that I cannot please everyone when the constituency is so split. I will keep my word and vote for the side that wrote in in larger numbers, which means voting No to the Bill.

This is a very odd way to decide how to cast a vote on an issue like this. Indeed, I would argue that it is wrong on this or any issue. Members of Parliament are elected as representatives not delegates. A cursory knowledge of Burkian writing and constitutional precedent tells us that MPs should act according to their judgement after informing themselves of the facts. Of course an MP should be lobbied by constituents and pressure groups. And an MP should listen to all those interests. But it is then the responsibility of an MP to come to his or her own considered judgement. To delegate this responsibility to pressure groups with the power to mobilise a huge letter writing campaign is surely an abrogation of parliamentary responsibility.

Will it end here? Will John use this way of deciding his vote in future? And if so, why not all the time?

I am all in favour of reforming our system to include more direct forms of democracy. But on this occasion I think John Redwood should have come to his own decision and not passed it off on others. He might just as well have said…

There go my people. I must follow them. I am their leader.