Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Parliamentary Sub-committees - Ritual Humiliation?

After watching the early evening news and watching another hapless soul dragged in front of a huge panel of MPs and humiliated, I was moved to tweet

"Why do we now drag incompetent people in front of parliamentary sub committees for ritual humiliation, what actually happens as a result?"

This was because I feel like I've been watching sub-committees all year, what with Leveson, LIBOR scandal and now this G4S. And I'm also struck by how it feels a bit like putting someone in the stocks, throwing rotten veg (insults and pointed questions) at them and us all somehow feeling better for the process. Leaves a bit of a bad taste in the mouth as well.

With Rory Stewart's observations that we do things differently here - and are less focussed on outcomes - in mind, there must be something better? I think I touched a nerve because there came three very good replies.

Danny Langley (@danny_langley) commented 

"Good question. Answer = half decent telly, making backbench MPs looking briefly powerful. Win for media, win for MPs."

Which answers the question as to why.

Lee Chalmers (@leechalmers) added:

"Not a damn thing as far as I can see. But it lets us off the hook from taking real action."

Which is what I was thinking - where do we really go with this? It's like we ask the question, prepare a report, put it in the bottom drawer and seem satisfied with ourselves that the "guilty" got their come-uppance.

Finally, came this from Paul Ankers (@Ankersman) 

"fail for country. The interviewees either swat them away or kill themselves. Keith Vaz looked like a bully too"

So, I was reminded therefore of Dr David Kelly - surely the most tragic result from a select committee battering - and really an inditement of this whole process, and makes it look a bit shabby really. And that the bad taste becomes revolting thinking that someone actually died
as a result of one of these things

 Plus of course the way the Murdochs and Cameron blithely assure us they don't know or don't remember vast swathes of their experience.

It's great to see Parliament have some power and as above probably gives the back-benchers a bit of an ego-boost - but a) what are we trying to achieve and b) is this really the best way of doing it?

Edit : Late addition - Archie Bland in the Indy has penned a decent article on the subject here

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