After every reshuffle, sacked ministers choose to tread a number of different paths. Some go rogue, either to the extent that Tim Loughton has since losing his job last year, or at least in publicly criticising their party’s policy, as Jeremy Browne has since being sacked in this year’s round. Others go to ground, receive appreciative applause in the Chamber when they ask very anodyne questions about the local incinerator in their constituency, but don’t bother their former bosses. And a very small number decide to offer some quiet thoughts on how things might be better.
Sacked housing minister Mark Prisk seems to have gone down the third route. I wrote recently about the circumstances surrounding his move, but instead of staying as livid as colleagues reported him to be, he has written a piece for ConservativeHome in which he says ‘that’s politics’ and decides to offer some thoughts on how the Commons has changed – but ministers haven’t caught up. The crux of his argument is that rebellions are the new norm, and that minters now need to work with MPs on developing legislation, rather than assuming that they have backbenchers’ support automatically. Prisk writes:
‘So law-making in future is going to need government to think about how it can secure a majority for its measure and then work with the key MPs to develop that Bill. Treating constructive amendments with greater care and being organised in such a way to work with groups of MPs who have a particular concern. Done properly it could make for better law.’
Prisk is right that ministers will baulk at the thought of such a messy policymaking process. But bringing backbenchers in before legislation is briefed, before kites are flown and before big flaws are found would mean the party leadership could make much better use of the untapped talent on the backbenches and of different instincts and life experiences to those of the ministers and leaders directing the legislation. It would also encourage loyalty because those backbenchers wouldn’t feel quite so left out in the cold. But it would be a great deal messier: increase the number of people in the room mulling a controversial piece of legislation and increase the likelihood of something leaking.Tags: Mark Prisk, UK politics