THE BLOG

MPs Are Not for Hire

05/06/2013 13:37 BST | Updated 03/08/2013 10:12 BST

There is nothing wrong with people asking MPs for help or asking MPs if they can bring up in Parliament issues dear to their hearts. That's why we are a representative democracy. As much as politicians quite often do a bad job of representing their constituents - or the views of anyone other than themselves - that is what their job is about. Representing people's views.

The problem comes when MPs are not representing the views of their constituents - Mrs Bloggs and her twenty seven dogs - but the views of a huge interest group or a multinational corporation like British Airways, and are not doing it out of a sense of duty, or because it is a job that they have been elected to, but in exchange for a substantial fee. When this happens, it appears as if our representatives are in fact up for hire.

I suspect many in Westminster had hoped that the scandal of lobbying and special interests had ended, and that they would be able to move on. Having promised to tighten the regulations regarding lobbying, they could quietly shelve the legislation when no-one was looking. But with the revelation that backbench Conservative MP Stephen Mercer has been taking money from the dictatorial government of Fiji in exchange for lobbying on their behalf, the whole sorry mess is back in the spotlight

It is easy to understand why lobbying takes place. After all, corporations - while not people - have needs as well and if it looks like government legislation is going to have an impact on their business it is only logical that they will want to express their opinion. And while a public service, or perhaps because of it, being an MP is hardly the most lucrative business in the world, you don't go into it if you want to make money. Under those circumstances it is understandable that they might be tempted by the offer of a little extra money on the side, for doing no more than ask a question.

The problem is that while it is understandable, this practice undermines everything that government should be about; in fact it undermines our entire democracy. The point of the British system of government, and the reason that it has been adopted around the world, is that it is the people, serving the people. It is supposed to be, and should be, about helping and serving the people on the ground, who just want to make a living and raise a family. But if their needs are being bumped to the bottom of the pile, if their questions aren't being asked, because someone else has paid for the privilege then the whole system simply falls apart.

If MPs are just mouthpieces for hire, available to whoever has the biggest chequebook then our entire system of government, all the work that has been done down the centuries, by thousands of people, to reach a system which is open and fair to all, is for naught. Don't worry about voting next time around. The whole system has already been bought and paid for.