« Previous | Main | Next »

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

Post categories:

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."


  • 1. At 5:32pm on 16 Jun 2009, The Wrath Is Come wrote:

    "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."


    Very good.

    Complain about this comment

  • 2. At 5:36pm on 16 Jun 2009, U12122585 wrote:

    Almost fell off chair with laughter after reduced new version down shares up shares tune.

    Complain about this comment

  • 3. At 6:04pm on 16 Jun 2009, FinGoldCon wrote:

    A.L. Kennedy does not seem to understand what respect means. This patronising and irritating manifesto says so much about what society sees of Government and Politics in Britain today. Yes, MPs have done wrong, and they need to change, but this kind of degrading attitude is not going to help that process get done any faster.

    Complain about this comment

  • 4. At 6:05pm on 16 Jun 2009, needsanewnickname wrote:

    Love it.

    It'll never work.

    Complain about this comment

  • 5. At 6:20pm on 16 Jun 2009, Lady_Sue wrote:


    Didn't do it for me.

    Amusing, I'll grant you but I think the British public is beyond a humorous take over this one.

    My money's still on Tim.

    Complain about this comment

  • 6. At 6:38pm on 16 Jun 2009, Alchemist Jack wrote:

    Half (or more) of the House of Parliament should be selected by Random Democracy. All the National Insurance numbers go into a lottery, and 300 or so people are randomly selected with terms of various lengths, 6 months-5 years, as MP's.

    Complain about this comment

  • 7. At 7:19pm on 16 Jun 2009, GWFHegel wrote:

    Like all the others, including
    the majority of the politicians,
    I suspect A. L. Kennedy has not read Plato, Aristotle, and or what Hegel, has to say on politics.

    The problem that needs to be
    addressed is the constitution.
    It is currently opaque and unmediated.
    Rights and interests should not
    favour corporations at the expense of the estates and the Monarchy.

    Party politics is partisan and so divisive.
    It therefore inevitably creeps towards authoritarianism.

    Complain about this comment

  • 8. At 7:55pm on 16 Jun 2009, Gillianian wrote:

    Lady Sue (5) You took the words out of my hands ;o)

    Complain about this comment

  • 9. At 8:10pm on 16 Jun 2009, Cossackgirl wrote:

    Lady Sue (5), Gillianian (8)
    Hear, hear! Tim for me! (who are the final two?)

    (7) GWGH
    Unlike "all the others", I have indeed read Plato, Aristotle, Hegel, Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Vladimir (Ulianov) Lenin, Iosif (Dzugashvili) Stalin etc
    I always understood that, to be less opaque and unmediated, any Constitution would benefit from being WRITTEN in the first place.

    Complain about this comment

  • 10. At 8:11pm on 16 Jun 2009, eighty-eight wrote:

    How exactly does A L Kennedy think that this is going to help the debate?

    Come to think of it, how does PM think that this is going to help the debate?

    Complain about this comment

  • 11. At 8:39pm on 16 Jun 2009, Charlie wrote:

    L_S @ 5
    C G @ 9
    88 @ 10


    Amusing at best...

    Complain about this comment

  • 12. At 9:28pm on 16 Jun 2009, SYNCRETIC wrote:

    9 theses against plutocratical salaries for MP's.

    1. I think that MP's deliberately mislead the Public on the UK, average, adult, income figure. I think that the MP's Statistical Office substitutes a household average income figure to suggest that average, UK, income is about £500 p.w. but which is apparently the average for two adults. I think that this average income deception is practiced by MP's because MPs starting salaries of about £1250 p.w. then don't look so democratically disgusting.
    2. I think were MP's to publish the true, average, income figure which I think is nearer to £250 p.w. than to £500 p.w. then the MPs starting salary of about £1250 p.w. does look disgustingly undemocratic particularly to those who realise both that the first part of income has to go entirely on essentials also that MPs pretend to be a democratic government; I.e. a government by the People, for the People rather than a plutocracy; I.e. a government only by the rich and so for the rich.
    a. Incidentally I note that PM News Editors and other Senior Civil Servants never question MPs on their modern plutocratic salaries and i think this is because MPs can then question BBC Presenters & etc on their plutocratic salaries too. So I think there is a cosy conspiracy of silence on senior public, servants salaries and that the BBC PM program are definitely in it with MPs and with other Senior Civil Servants and so MPs call such public co- conspirators independent when they mean co-dependent. So i think PM is in a cosy conspiracy against the Publics interest as it never questions MPs on how an entirely plutocratical House of Commons can still reasonably claim be democratical I.e a government by the People? I think that there are bags of poor and middle income people capable of holding our now wholly plutocratic MPs to Public account properly but PM wont do it because its presenters cost us too much and so i think that PM is plutocratically rather than democratically edited. I think PM is publicly corrupt and toothless. I think it should be replaced by a much leaner and so more Publicly interested PM machine.
    3. I think that like most poor people, that most private sector rich people, must privately feel disgusted that the UK government now is only of the rich part of our society. I think if I were rich Id hold almost all MPs in contempt for their overly, personally, competitive natures because public service is about the Publics best interest and it doesnt take plutocratic salaries to represent the Publics best interest it takes both the rich and the poor together to express, to editorialise, to broadcast the Publics best interest.
    4. I think that MPs now all being on modern preposterously large salaries and never questioned about it by the also plutocratic UK public media so there can hardly be even a tiny, genuine, socialist parliamentary party left. Who is there in parliament who is poor? Virtually no-one. So can it be a democratic parliament? Is it remotely a government by the People, or has it just been wholly plutocraticalised yet again? I wonder how can MPs all take an elite salary and still honestly claim to be a government by the people rather than a plutocracy; I.e. a government only of rich people?
    5. I think that MPs argue that being now all rich that they somehow can appreciate and articulate poor peoples interests better than poor people can themselves. So MPs typically now believe that theyre wiser than other varieties in the other varieties affairs. This is practicing absolute paternalism to the poor or rather supremacism. Its creating a permanent juvenilia based on a wealthy test; a statis.
    6. I think, I wonder who can believe that the now wholly rich UK parliament is a reasonable and democratic system? I think that the UK parliaments now are democratic for a rich type but i ask, what about some representation for the less competitively successful human varieties too?
    7. I think that the present UK parliamentary system is a corrupt Neo-Platonic Republic therefore more of an eugenic system than a democratic system. I think that this wholly elitist parliament generally degrades our society and our environment too. I think if ordinarily you take the trouble to include the whole society, rich and poor in public decision making, rather than only including the already most competitively successful and rich in that society then the quality of public and private planning is liable to improve markedly. I think that it is only a general marked improvement in the quality of public and private planning that can reduce the general degradation if our society and environment too.
    8. I think our current elective representive, mono-cameral system might be able to be successfully checked and complemented in the Public's interest by a jury chamber system and I think that the former would need no more than the average income as salary and that the latter might be rotated very swiftly and so need no salary at all.
    9. I think that each rotated jury could follow a snap-shot of the corresponding elective chambers acts over-time so that each elective chamber would be liable to methodical public scrutiny on a case by case basis and over-time. I think a methodical public scrutiny over-time more than anything else might start to make elective representative chambers act in the Publics best interest rather than in their own extremely competitively inclined varieties interests which I think is what degrades both our society and environment overtime.

    Yours dourly

    Complain about this comment

  • 13. At 11:18pm on 16 Jun 2009, Edwardevon wrote:

    Flippant, BBC-speak, middle-class, bewildered, skinny latte, Kennedy veers between blaming an optimistic electorate and blaming Parliament's plush surroundings. This manifesto might be mistaken for eccentricity if it wasn't so awfully edinburgh-fringe in its weak humour.
    I'm afraid pretend-deadpan, suppressed giggling and batting one's eyelids at BBC producers is no qualification for being a Speaker. Quote: '. . .they each need somebody with them to say, "No. Put that down - it's not yours, is it"?' Give me a break!
    As a current BBC favourite this Speaker perfectly reflects what I imagine the BBC as an institution feels about the whole shocking state of our once Great Democracy: '. . .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.'
    YES Miss Kennedy. We sure ARE!!

    Complain about this comment

  • 14. At 00:29am on 17 Jun 2009, Patrick wrote:

    Based on the belief that transparency is the best form of disinfectant, the simplest way of controlling expenses drawn by employees in the public sector would be the legal requirement to post them on the internet. (Above a certain minimum)
    This should apply not only to MPs but Civil servants, all central and local government employees, health and education employees, even the BBC!
    Public scrutiny would do the rest.

    Complain about this comment

  • 15. At 09:22am on 17 Jun 2009, GWFHegel wrote:

    A.L. Kennedy: 'So change the barrel.'
    This cannot be done unless
    the public understand what kind
    of barrels are on offer. Forget the metaphors and the policy ideas.
    Try to formalise the notion of an ethical state, if that,
    is what you would like.

    This then begs the question of how it should work. Here are some questions that might help:

    Should all the professions; interests be proportionally represented?
    Or maybe, we should just let the state carry on favouring the banks, supermarkets and media with our taxes?
    And, what of hereditary rights?
    How can families to be protected
    from powerful commercial interests, that only care for short-term gain?

    Complain about this comment

  • 16. At 1:16pm on 17 Jun 2009, Greg Webb wrote:

    The assumption in this manifesto that most or even all MPs are crooks is simply not borne out by the facts - the majority of MPs have emerged from this quite unscathed, having had entirely transparent and sensible affairs.

    The assumption inherent in this manifesto that MPs do no useful work and so their time can best be served by jumping through the hoops of the benefit system suggests a very shallow understanding of our democratic system. While I agree that a deeper understanding of the benefits system would make them better able to serve its users, to inflict it on them in this way would be a silly waste of time and money.

    I do not disagree that the Westminster system provides opportunities to corrupt and that the Palace of Westminster could perhaps be replaced by more humble working accommodation. The cynical, ill-informed broadsides which otherwise make up this manifesto though do Ms. Kennedy no credit and to assume by default that all politicians are crooks in spite of the evidence is a very poor starting point for electing competent, honest representatives.

    Complain about this comment

  • 17. At 1:48pm on 17 Jun 2009, CharlesDexterWard wrote:

    Witty and amusing, but with little or no substance.Not at all what we need in a speaker, next please!

    Complain about this comment

  • 18. At 6:48pm on 20 Jun 2009, illustriouscomradek wrote:

    Brilliant as always but does A.L.Kennedy really think the plural of MP is MP's!!!

    Complain about this comment

  • 19. At 7:54pm on 20 Jun 2009, nikki noodle wrote:


    Are you calling Down the Line?!

    Complain about this comment

  • 20. At 11:31pm on 20 Jun 2009, Genuflectus wrote:

    Kennedy is a funny lady or to give her a grander title she's a comedian. More down to earth she might be a stand-up. Pretty courageous people. Prepared to stand up in a potentially hostile environment. Rather like politicians going about their job in the house, in an interview or canvassing.
    What Kennedy appears to be proposing is methods of getting MPs to reconnect with the people by:
    (1) Working in more modest surroundings that promote accountability
    (2) Accomodate in ordinary person's council property
    (3) Force to lodge claims at the benefit office
    (4) Employ Baby sitters to prompt their conscience
    What I think about these proposals:
    (1) I agree that the Palace of Westminster and its trappings are liable to corrupt the best of UKs sensible and generous people. More modest surroundings might also lead to improved efficiency. But what government ever houses itself modestly?
    (2) If this were adopted there would be fewer career politicians as they would not put up with the deprivation from their comforts. Do they even know that the fragrance in lifts of this type of dwelling is not Channel?
    (3) This would work well. Make the process of claiming awkward and then subject their claims to an Inland Revenue style expenses yardstick.
    (4) a flipant suggestion but many of our MPs have demonstrated that they need a guardian angel to keep them on the straight and narrow.
    I think the MPs will find these ideas too extreme to implement
    Kennedy also makes an interesting point about the complicity of the media in inflating the MPs egos, taken up at length in Syncretic's comments. I must aver that I have noticed the reluctance of PM presenters to broach the subject of their own salaries. According to Syncretic, an MP's salary is 5 times the national average so they cannot be said to truly represent. I think that if we didn't have career politicians then there wouldnt be a need for salaries on this scale. The sensible and generous people of the UK would be happy to serve for a term on a lesser wage.

    Complain about this comment

  • 21. At 10:45am on 21 Jun 2009, Horatio wrote:

    Yep - a sardonic comment, but no help in pointing the way towards reforming the representation of the people.

    Complain about this comment

  • 22. At 6:09pm on 21 Jun 2009, thecatinthehat1 wrote:

    Given the gravity of the subject-matter, Kennedy's puerile, inchoate contribution adds nothing to this exercise...

    Complain about this comment

View these comments in RSS


Sign in

BBC navigation

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.