t4w is reading: Honourable Friends?

Honourable Friends? front coverHonourable Friends? by Caroline Lucas MP

Honourable Friends? is t4w’s book of the month for November 2015.

The book, published shortly before the General Election, is a reflection by the author Caroline Lucas on her first five years in Westminster. It is a fascinating insight into the workings of our parliament, which the author regards as woefully unfit for purpose. Honourable Friends? is packed full of tales from the front line of politics, and proposals for how parliament and politics could change to serve us better.

Read alongside us, and contribute your opinions when we review it next month.

In addition to looking at how parliament functions, there are chapters looking at austerity, the NHS, climate change, sexism, sovereignity and lots more. We think Honourable Friends? is going to be extremely thought-provoking, whatever your politics.

Here’s a taste of the style and content.

So much about the way Parliament works is obscure or downright weird. (Do MPs really need a snuffbox at the entrance to the Commons Chamber in case they need a quick snort before going in?) This means that it’s not always easy to see what is stupid-but-irrelevant and what is comic-but-harmful.

I was soon convinced that the current voting system in Parliament is not just a piece of inert tradition, but actively malign; and probably kept that way deliberately. The process itself is absurd. When a vote is called – which can happen at any time, though there are set times of day when most are more likely to be held – a ‘division bell’ begins to clang throughout the Palace (and in various bars and restaurants in the surrounding streets) to warn MPs that they have eight minutes to reach the voting lobbies. Whether or not you are in the middle of a select committee session or meeting constituents, you have to drop everything and run for it. The MPs then crowd into the lobbies, and file through one of two doors – the ‘Ayes’ who support the motion and the ‘Noes’ who don’t – where they are counted and their names recorded. The whole pantomime takes around fifteen minutes for each vote, which means that MPs only have the chance to vote on a tiny proportion of the amendments put forward for each bill. It’s excruciatingly inefficient.