Home Letters MPs should, first and foremost, represent the interests of their constituents
What can we learn from the most recent phase of the Brexit process in the UK? Mr Anil Nandlall (“Brexit process in UK puts Guyana Gov’t to shame – Monday, September 9) offered one interpretation. I write to offer another, speaking as a layperson.
The UK polity is now split into two roughly equal parts (Brexiteers and Remainers). The past fortnight has seen a breakdown of trust between the Executive (Government) and the Legislature (Parliament). The Westminster model envisages an Executive with a healthy majority and the respect of other MPs. Faced with an absent majority, absent trust, absent written Constitution and a belligerent Executive, the model has been stretched to its limits. There has been a noticeable pivot in the balance of power in favour of Parliament: the Opposition parties have combined to flex their legislative muscle in Parliament to force the Government to act in certain ways.
The ‘Whip’ system (where MPs are instructed how to cast their votes by their party) has failed on previous occasions and appears to be crumbling. Last week, a clutch of respected Conservative MPs acting in line with their conscience, eschewed blind loyalty to their party, defied the Whips and worked with Opposition MPs to secure the passage of the Benn Bill. It seems that the Whip system and the Prime Minister’s prerogative to prorogue Parliament may emerge diminished from this phase of parliamentary history.
Guyana also has a polity divided along roughly equal lines and has had recently a sequence of Administrations with a slim or no majority. The current Administration, having prevaricated relentlessly in the aftermath of the no-confidence vote, has now lost the trust of those who do not support the APNU/AFC coalition. The Opposition has withdrawn from the National Assembly and gridlock looms.
Given events in the UK, is it possible that in future our National Assembly might play an amplified role in our decision-making and governance? Might it not be wise to provide for this constitutionally? And to revise some of the more autocratic features of the current set up such as powers to prorogue and the Whip system? If, as seems likely, future Governments here will also only enjoy the support of half of the population, perhaps more Executive power should devolve to the National Assembly (and the parliamentary committees) and MPs should be encouraged to represent, first and foremost, the interests of their constituents.
Isabelle de Caires