Mitchell: Democracy has failed! We are being called in like relief firemen, like the Home Guard. Where will it stop?

Victoria Coren Mitchell writes about Ed Miliband’s proposal of having citizens ask the Prime Minister questions every week:

It’s Ed Miliband who is promising that, under his leadership, we would be allowed to go into the House of Commons and ask things. His wheeze is for prime minister’s questions to be extended, every Wednesday, to people who will be allowed to stand up and put whatever questions they like to the leader of the country, on behalf of the rest of us. I love this plan, save only my small confusion that this is what prime minister’s questions ALREADY IS.

I mean, tell me if I’ve missed the concept of our entire democracy; I speak as someone who could only manage grade C in GCSE chemistry (“Draw a picture of a test tube”, “A what?”); but I understood members of parliament to be people who go to Westminster and speak on behalf of the rest of us – specifically, when it comes to prime minister’s questions, in the form of putting questions to the prime minister.

It’s lovely to see politicians come out with clear ideas and policy, but Ed Miliband’s idea here is so massive that it is rather terrifying. Its implication is that our whole system has broken down. If “members of the public” are needed to go in on Wednesdays and ask questions on behalf of the nation, that can only mean members of parliament are not currently doing it. In which case, the entire constituency principle has fallen apart. Democracy has failed! We are being called in like relief firemen, like the Home Guard. Where will it stop? Will I get a phone call saying that, henceforward, I am to be home secretary every other Monday? Will you have to do the budget?

We all know that Westminster’s makeup is not precisely representative: it’s almost entirely white, overwhelmingly male, and filled increasingly with people who have spent their entire lives in politics. But I thought we were still, broadly, trusting them to operate on behalf of their constituencies and ask the questions that we would ourselves.

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