A Parliament we can be proud of
This new intake of MPs can help restore trust in our democracy by showing that Parliament can deliver what voters voted for, writes Jacob Rees-Mogg
As we begin the decade Westminster has a new lease of life. The December election returned 140 new members who, judging by first appearances, have the élan needed to do their jobs well. Taken together, they and their returning colleagues make up a Parliament capable of delivering for the people. As 2020 gets underway, it’s time to get Parliament back on its feet again.
Every single MP, but specifically the new MPs, has a role to play in this important work, which is why I have sought to meet them all in their initial days in SW1. My first impressions are of a forceful bunch, determined to make a difference as they begin the process of establishing themselves in their new environment. There much to be said for spending time in the chamber, getting used to its rules and customs. The maiden speech is an occasion to make the most of and enjoy. Just as important are the first constituency surgeries, where the work of being a local MP comes alive.
I first arrived in 2010 when change in the air helped the House to recover from the expenses scandal. As a new intake we were determined not to be tarred with the same brush as our predecessors. The House agreed significant changes and as a result became much more effective at holding the government to account.
In 2020, the new arrivals have an appetite for a similar clean break with the past. They want nothing to do with the frustrations and failures of the 2017-19 Parliament; instead this group of MPs will help restore trust in our democracy by showing that Parliament can deliver what voters voted for. We will get Brexit done and deliver the Prime Minister’s priorities as set out in the Queen’s Speech.
How we achieve all this is so important, for the ructions of recent years have strained some parliamentary conventions and broken others entirely. As Leader of the House, it is my responsibility to strike the right balance between the government getting its business through and the opposition conducting robust, effective scrutiny.
We will be in a much stronger position to achieve this in the coming years, aided by the impetus of a new Speaker warmly regarded by colleagues across the House. By looking at how this place operates in the round we can consider what steps are needed to help us leave our democracy in a stronger position than when we found it.
That principle applies just as much to the way we go about our work, too. The #MeToo scandal prompted the political parties to come together to agree a procedure which offers complainants confidentiality. For Westminster, the assurance that their cases will be heard independently and expertly has proved the key ingredient to its success. Much progress has been made, but culture change takes time.
The new intake of MPs are clear about their responsibilities. I am delighted so many of them have an appetite for the Valuing Everyone training.
Talking to all these new MPs has prompted me to revisit my own maiden speech, which concluded with a tribute to a great Somerset man, John Locke. He recognised so clearly that power comes from the people up to the legislature, which is there to supervise the executive. That is just as it should be: ten years on, as Leader of the House I could not be clearer that the people remain the font of our democracy. Making them proud of Parliament is the task that faces all 650 of us in the years to come.
Jacob Rees-Mogg is Leader of the Commons and Conservative MP for North East Somerset