I have written in the past about how frustrating I find it that government ministers (and often shadow ministers) won't answer questions and how they speak in an anodyne sometimes meaningless language that can be almost impenetrable to anyone outside the Westminster village.
- Ministers find it difficult to answer questions put to them. I can understand how hard the strait-jacket of CR must make it for ministers. They are asked questions but sometimes they are not exactly sure what the government line is or exactly what their colleagues may have said so they waffle or give an answer that is non-committal. Or they use well learned tactics to shift the ground onto something they are comfortable answering and answer this instead. It takes considerable intelligence and talent to be able to navigate this sort of minefield but isn't this ultimately a waste of time and energy that could be better spent? We find out eventually what ministers really thought in their memoirs or through other means. It's a facade that we all know exists and they know we know. And we know they know we know. Etc.
- Interviewers pick at ministers in order to try and provoke a "gaffe". Interviewers often know where the fissure points are in government and which ministers may not be "fully on board" for certain policies so they will try and trap them into saying something that is not 100% consistent with something one or more of their colleagues has said previously. Then this is pounced on as a "gaffe". I can see that sometimes this could serve a purpose if a policy is weak or ill-thought through and the interviewer is trying to expose this but more often than not it is just a game of cat and mouse between interviewed and interviewee. Experienced politicians will not fall into these traps but they do it by again, speaking in an impenetrable language.
- We don't get to know what our elected representatives really think about things. We voted for them. They are often intelligent people who have risen to the top of their profession. They are supposed to represent us and yet what we get is anodyne waffle because they are forbidden to tell us what they really think.
- The real decisions get thrashed out behind closed doors and the public don't get a say in any sort of nuance about how those decisions are reached. We simply have the blunt instrument of "keep 'em" or "chuck 'em out" once every four or five years. In the meantime we don't get any sort of a say.
- Allow more votes to be treated as "conscience votes" are now. These are usually reserved for things like votes on the death penatly or stem cell research. But could this not also be extended to other areas?
- Allow ministers to be honest about their views. I am a director of a company and I run my it with 4 other people who attend management meetings. Of course we do not always agree on everything and we sometimes have quite heated debates but we take the decisions and act upon them accordingly. However, when I am talking to our staff, I don't feel obliged to pretend that I personally agreed with everything that was decided. If asked I feel able to give my honest view about things but can explain that I lost the argument and it has been decided to do something a certain way and we will do our best to make it work. Why can't ministers work on this sort of principle? It would mean they could be more honest about their views and we, the public would know what they were thinking and I would know which ministers were aligned with me on which issues. (I am sure commenters will have views on this one!)