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It's Speaker Week on PM. Read A L Kennedy's ideas here.

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Eddie Mair | 17:00 UK time, Tuesday, 16 June 2009


Here at PM, we're offering you the chance to vote for the best ideas on cleaning up public life and restoring faith in politics.

We're calling it Speaker Week.

We've asked four people - none of them politicians - to put forward their personal manifestos for change. You can hear them on consecutive nights, and on Friday they'll debate each other.

Then you'll be able to vote by phone for the person whose ideas you like best.

Last night it was the manifesto of Colonel Tim Collins, which you can read here.

Tonight it's the manifesto of A L Kennedy.

Feel free to read her words and let us know what you think by clicking on Comments.

"The British media have finally noticed that British MP's are not selfless examples of probity and service, and are furnishing us with detailed accountings which are both nauseating and oddly uplifting - after all, most of us knew we were voting for crooks - we'd never guessed that some of them were clever. As the witch hunt continues (and a back bencher somewhere is undoubtedly claiming for witches) citizens are using their ballots as expressions of contempt, despair and mental unusualness.

Our next General Election may deliver a untried coalition of celebrity chefs, Most Haunted groupies and wannabe brown shirts. But this isn't the real problem. MP's and political journalists would have us believe Honourable Members are remarkable individuals: part visionary, part healer, part genius and - I understand - part tapir. In fact, most MP's get by on chillingly insubstantial mixtures of rhetoric, prejudice and pre-spun advice. The UK is packed with sensible and generous head teachers, matrons, firemen, Big Issue sellers, refugees and thousands of others who could excel as MP's. But once behind that Pugin façade would they stay sensible and generous ?

Scandals focus on individuals - remarkable or otherwise - rather than institutions. There are bad apples, never bad barrels. We are expected to believe that even a well-balanced human being could remain normal, once placed inside their own private leather- and wood-lined palace, equipped with servants, half a dozen pubs, self-aggrandising rituals, media stroking, and disorientating opportunities for adultery and expenses. Add lack of oversight, hazy responsibility, power, complete divorce from both the consequences of actions and the humanity of anyone other than colleagues and you have the dark and nasty recipe for predatory businesses, hell -hole prisons, bottom-feeding governments and toxic militias the world over.

So change the barrel. Hand over the palace and the Whitehall landmarks - there are commodious offices all over London that will suggest modesty and accountability to our leaders. Allow representatives away from home to enjoy the council accommodation they provide for others. Their fragrant lifts, their expert and timely repairs.

There are already many benefit offices, forms and assessments - let MP's navigate them, share the same system as voters, puzzle over the same unfathomable paragraphs and arcane eligibility requirements, and experience on a regular basis what it's like for us to claim for mobility assistance, or support for sick people we like and don't want to die.

And, of course, we should introduce Accompaniers - if MP's will behave like toddlers left in a room full of toffees with Derren Brown's evil twin, then they each need somebody with them to say, "No. Put that down - it's not yours, is it?", "Are you fibbing again?". Perhaps experienced nannies, zookeepers, or concerned Quakers with their gentle sternness and nice baking could take the lead, perhaps with little scones as a treat for throwing away that tempting catalogue of new duck islands. Then we could all have go - chatting with our MPs, trips to the circus, attending conferences - just to things human, connected and as honest as we might want to expect."


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