Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 1 October 2009


Your Parliament rose for the summer on 21st July and will sit again on 12th October 2009. That is about 12 weeks during which ministers receive no parliamentary grilling. Is this right?

Most Parliaments have a long summer recess. To represent your area you need a good knowledge of local issues and the summer is a good time to spend more reflective time in the constituency listening to various people and groups of all kinds. Although many jobs are equally as intensive, there is no doubt that politics comes with its own unique pressures and by the middle of July we are all on our knees. A proper break helps to restore sanity. 

Despite these arguments, I have come to the conclusion that our summer break is now too long. Although I have enjoyed pottering around SW Devon this summer, I think we should go back in early September. 6 weeks is long enough to recharge batteries and most of us these days live in our constituencies and are already very familiar with local issues.

However there is a problem: the party conference season. It starts in mid September with the Liberal Democrats and minor parties, followed by Labour and then us. But I have a solution to that too: scrap the party conferences.

I believe they belong to a time now past. There was a time when conferences actually made policy. This no longer happens – policy is made by party leadership in every case. There was a time when political parties enjoyed mass membership and the annual conference was a time to meet with like minded people and catch up all the news. Now numbers for all parties are dwindling and the new media age means that we can be in daily contact, if not hourly, via the web with both policy and gossip. Having the party conference season is not a justifiable reason for Parliament not to sit, especially when times are tough.

Not that I want it to pass even more unnecessary legislation or suffocating regulation, we already get far too much of that. But in the end governance is about decisions made by ministers and having them come to the House to answer questions, to explain their decisions is the best way of holding the government to account. Parties can still have shorter weekend conferences but this should no longer stand in the way of proper democratic accountability. What do you think?

posted by Gary @ 10:42