Ian Kennedy – the man in charge of overhauling the parliamentary expenses – has done a good job of encapsulating all that I dislike about post-expenses scandal attitudes. In a speech to the IPPR he suggested that parliamentary expenses are inflated by the house choosing “work its own idiosyncratic hours” and that costs could be slashed by a 9-5 regime. This would save on bills for taxis and overnight stays.
There are certainly areas of the state in which a degree penny pinching might be justified. But the operation of our democracy is not one of them. The passing of legislation should be subject to long and extensive debate – going on into the night if necessary – by our elected representatives. The idea that this should be curtailed for the sake of saving a few thousand pounds really does treat Parliament as though it were just another civil service department.
Yet Kennedy’s proposal is fitting for an age in which the lines between government and management have been blurred, in which policy making has become just another discipline, and in which commentators – both left and right – like nothing more than to defer to experts, and go orgasmic at the mention of “evidence based policy”. If some people desire nothing more than parliament that is efficient, then current parliamentarians too must take some blame for doing all too little to demonstrate what is special about the supposed epicentre of our democracy.