Most of what we do is ‘a waste of time’, says Hove MP

Posted On 07 Mar 2015 at 2:10 pm

Much of what happens in Parliament is a waste of time, according to Hove MP Mike Weatherley who is standing down in May.

He spoke about his frustrations and his achievements as a backbench member of the House of Commons during an interview on the BBC Parliament channel last night (Friday 6 March).

On The Week in Parliament he was asked by presenter Alicia McCarthy what it was about life at Westminster that he’d found surprising.

Mike Weatherley

Mike Weatherley

Mr Weatherley said: “I think just what a waste of time most of what we do is.

“It’s all good stuff, I suppose, and I suppose it has to happen. But you tend to be here for a long many hours in committees that don’t really go anywhere.

“Sometimes you rush to go to a delegated legislation committee and you’re there and you’ve run in from wherever it is, from Hove up to here, and you’re there for two minutes and everyone says aye and you walk out again.

“It just seems like an archaic way of doing things sometimes.”

Alicia McCarthy asked: “Do you think many other backbenchers share your view that a lot of what you do is just pointless process?”

Mr Weatherley said: “I think they do. If you’re an idealistic person you go to into Parliament and you want to change the world and all your ideas are the best ideas.

“But when you actually get here it’s very difficult to get things through. Unless the Prime Minister agrees with you it’s actually quite difficult to get any changes done.

“So you come out being very practical at the end of it.

“And I think anyone who doesn’t like losing, for example, or who feels they should always get their own way – an MP’s job is not for them really.”

Alicia McCarthy asked: “How realistic is it to think that you can do your own thing given that we all know that politics and particularly parliament is very much a team sport?”

Mr Weatherley said: “It is a team sport. And people always say, so why don’t you rebel more?

“I always equate it to a football team. You might be a centre forward and you might be their best but if the team asks you to play right back for a couple of weeks you do that because you like to support the team.

“Now if the team asks you to play right back forever you’ll change your team.

“So if I didn’t like what the Conservatives were doing I would change team.

“But as a general rule if I’m trying to put a bill through I want my Conservative colleagues to support me and I know they want me to support them.

“So it is a team game. You have to choose you’re battles where you rebel. I don’t think you should do it all the time. I think you should realise it’s a team.”

Alicia McCarthy asked: “You’re clearly frustrated with the whipping system and the way the whole system works. Give me some examples of the kind of things that had you tearing your hair out.”

Mr Weatherley said: “In the olden days the whips used to say you must always toe the party line and that was expected.

Mike Weatherley with Alice Cooper and Commons Speaker John Bercow

Mike Weatherley with Alice Cooper and Commons Speaker John Bercow

“But nowadays your constituents expect you to be a bit more individualistic.

“So you do your campaigns like I campaigned against nuclear power, for example.

“I made it very clear before I came to Parliament that I would not support any buildings of new nuclear power without all the other alternatives being tried first.

“When you get here the whips say you’ve got to vote for the government on nuclear power.

“Well, I kind of committed not to do that.

“So I think as time goes on – and it’s happened in this parliament and I think it will happen more in the next few parliaments – I think they will have to have more flexibility in allowing MPs to actually have their own views more than just always following the government line.

Alicia McCarthy asked: “Do you think there’s been a change in what constituents want? Do you get the impression that constituents now expect their MPs to be more independent-minded?”

Mr Weatherley said: “Yes, I think that’s absolutely right. When they go the ballot box quite a lot of people know what that person’s views are.

“They’ve seen their own particular views and they’re voting for the person much more than just the party.

“They have to be satisfied with the party and the person they’re voting for now in much more ways than they ever did before.”

Alicia McCarthy asked: “What do you think you’ve actually managed to achieve?”

Mr Weatherley said: “I’m quite proud of some of my achievements nationally and locally.

“I think locally we’ve done a lot of good. And a lot of people tell me we’ve done a lot of good locally from schools to other things.

“Nationally certainly I helped change the laws on squatting. I was the Prime Minister’s adviser on intellectual property. And a lot of people will say that we changed the laws and the rules and we changed the direction of the country to do with intellectual property rights.

“I just helped a bill through to be changed in the Lords on secondary ticketing and things like that.

“One of the things that I helped, I think, is to change the perspective people have of Parliament.

“I’ve put rock concerts on in Parliament and we’ve changed a lot of things like that, making it more accessible to people, I guess, which I’m proud of.”

Alicia McCarthy asked: “If you could go back in time … what would you tell yourself?”

Mr Weatherley said: “I would probably say get more stuck in earlier than probably I did.

“A lot of politics is to go to the tea rooms and make sure you meet a lot of people.

“Now in my case I got cancer in 2012 so it stopped a lot of that schmoozing in the bars and the cafés.

“And I wish I’d done more of that beforehand probably to make more solid friendships with people because there are some colleagues on my benches I just don’t know very well and I wish I’d got to know them better I guess.”

Alicia McCarthy asked: “What will you miss?”

Mr Weatherley said: “I enjoy the debates in the Parliament. Unfortunately we don’t have enough of those.

“A lot of MPs watch the TV in their offices because they’re writing letters to constituents and answering the phones and it’s easy to watch a debate on the TV. I do it all the time.

“I miss having debates with people – I’m not talking about the shouting and all the things that go on like that – but having good points backwards and forwards in the chamber. I really enjoy that and I will miss that.”

  1. Christopher Hawtree Reply

    A mixed bag of observations. Especially that residents do not look kindly upon the whipping system.

    And that – very post-modern – MPs watch Parliamentary debates on television feeds instead of going downstairs to be on those very television screens.

  2. saveHOVE Reply

    Without the intervention of Mike Weatherley (during the last Conservative Administration in Brighton & Hove, and within weeks of his election as Hove’s Conservative MP), who provided a public meeting in what was then the recently closed Connaught Adult Education Centre, when he publicly announced at the end of it(in front of hot-faced, scowling, Conservative Administration councillors) that he was going to sign the saveHOVE petition, asking BHCC to buy back the school to return it to infant education, that school would not now exist. City College would have sold it on to developers (probably) who would (possibly) have tried to demolish it (blocked by the Brighton Society getting it listed)or turning it into a block of flats.

    The Tory Administration felt obliged to follow his lead and the building which was NOT on the shortlist of possible sites for a school, was put in pole position, chosen, beautifully restored and converted from original 1890’s infant use to 21st century infant use.

    Hurrah!

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