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August 27, 2011

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D.G.

I will second each of Junican's comments about the ridiculous nature of the "back to work" programmes. A while back, my partner worked with a young man from an underprivileged background who'd managed to get himself a 6 week contract doing data entry. He received threatening letters and phone calls every week from either ATOS or A4E (can't remember which) because he'd dropped out of their "core skills programme" in order to take the job. They were pressuring him to quit the job and finish the (academically worthless) course. Because they didn't get paid if he didn't complete the programme.

I'll leave it to you to determine the value of 6 weeks work vs a laser-printed participation certificate to a potential future employer.

Paul Flynn

Thank you Junican. Good to hear from you again. I was grateful for your taking on the hordes of tobacco junkies.
I agree with every word of your comments on MPs. They reflect the message of the book. The original volume of 1997 had ten commandments. There are a furthe 15 nostrums in the new edition. It deals with the main role of MPs which is to strenghthen the Legislature in competing with the Executive. It will not be published until February but th writing has to be finished by the 6th September.

I did a new section tonight on How to stay sane. I find no stress in the job which is the most relaxing job I have ever had. Those who report on the death rates say that stress related heart disease is the main case of premature death. Please see tomorrow's blog on how to restore trust.

I am writing another book on a 63 year old MP who died 18 months ago. Stess played a part in his demise.

Paul Flynn

Diolch Alwyn ap Huw. Beer is similar to outside prices. Bar stays open until house rises. Have a cautionary tale in new book about Mark Reckless.

Junican

Hello, Mr Flynn! It has been some time since I looked at your blog. For a time, I quite enjoyed jousting with the smokerphobes who were commenting here.

I wish you well with your volume on 'how to be an MP'. Don't let the chapters on 'how to toe the party line when you do not agree with it' and 'how to create a soundbite' stress you too much.

Your essay is about the comparatively early deaths of MPs. You vaguely imply that stress is to blame. You may be right, but I wonder what aspect of the 'job' of MP is so stressful.

Once upon a time, I was the Manager of a Bank Branch. In very general terms, I found that it was not organising the systems of the branch (counter staff etc), dealing with customers, doing business, etc which was stressful. What was stressful was the insane demands from Head Office.

I wonder if a similar situation exists in respect of MPs?

Am I right in believing that the whole point of MPs is that they should 'hold the Government to account'? Does that not imply that the Government is a separate entity from Parliament? (Which does not mean that individuals cannot be part of both)

If there is stress in the job, it must come from 'catch 22' situations. It must come from having to vote for something with which you disagree. It must come from voting for Government dictats and then finding, in your constituency, how cruel these dictats which you voted for can be. For example (and of this I have personal experience), lots of harmless youths, male and female, are being seriously victimised, harassed, threatened and fined hundreds of pounds (they call the fines 'sanctions') simply because they cannot get non-existent jobs. These fines (sanctions) are dressed up as 'failure to attend an employment programme', when it turns out that these programmes are anything but 'employment programmes' - they are simply 'job searches on the internet' - all of which could be, and are, done from home.

How did you come to vote for this massively expensive insanity? I am sure that you must have had endless complaints about these penalties. If you haven't, you should have.

If I was an MP, and especially a Labour MP, this sort of manic government would drive me round the bend. It would cause me stress.

It is a massive failure of our system of government that MPs cannot do their job. They are supposed to question 'The Government', regardless of party affiliations. Ministers do not govern - government departments govern. Ministers should receive as much flak from their own party as the do from the opposition party.

Debilitating stress comes from being expected to solve problems which you do not have the power to solve. The bigger the problem and the longer the time involved, the higher the stress. I know, because I am constantly in that situation. My wife has MS you see. Of necessity, I have learnt to recognise what problems I cannot solve.

But you are an MP. You CAN solve THE PROBLEM (of questioning the government). But it means some hard, intellectual work. It means that you have to thoroughly understand Bills which are placed before Parliament. It means that you must recognise propaganda when you see it. It means that you must oppose your own party leadership.

Alwyn ap Huw

I haven't visited the bars of the Palace of Westminster for many, many, years. The last time would have been in the early eighties, when a pint of beer was just over a pound in London pubs, about 80p in my local in north Wales but just 60p in the House of Commons. My host at the time, Geraint Howells, told me that the price of a pint was even cheaper in those Westminster watering holes in which only members could drink. The other difference between my local and the Westminster bars was the opening hours; my local closed at 10:30 the parliamentary bars closed when both houses stopped sitting, which could be in the very early hours of the morning! Is this still the case? And if it is shouldn't your macabre chapter warn against the danger of the availability of copious amounts of cheep booze on a member's life expectancy?

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