MPs - heroes or villains?

I have been trying to cure my addiction to parliament and writing a book about the work of MPs for the last few months. In a rare visit to Westminster, I went to Millbank to be interviewed by Carolyn Quinn. She was so brilliant at listening that I got completely carried away. The interview went out on  BBC Radio 4 Sunday 7th April at 10.35 pm Despite my waffle, I still failed to say so much. I was going to say that after working as an anthropologist for aid charities in Africa and Asia and watching the UK parliament, I view charity  workers and MPs as morally equivalent.

What makes politics exciting?


What do MPs do in their work, how and why? At a workshop last Friday hosted by The History of Parliament I tried to address these questions in front of anthropologists, politics scholars and parliamentary officials. Do I have enough here for a book, I asked? “Three books,” replied one. The first may demolish some clichés about MPs. For starters, self-interest on its own is an unconvincing explanation of their behaviour. Like any other group, MPs are motivated by multiple aspirations, interwoven and in flux. Picking only one is a lazy and formulaic approach. MPs work hard in constituencies partly because they aim to get re-elected but since many of those in safe seats work up to 70 hours a week on behalf of those they represent, other motives are clearly at work as well. Solving constituents’ problems is satisfying – it leads to visible, sometimes life or sanity-saving results and forges close relationships between representative and represented. It also informs MPs about the impact of laws, policy and societal change on real people in their everyday lives.


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