Thursday, June 19, 2008

Select committee round-ups

I’d hate to be an MP.

I’d hate knocking on strangers’ doors, asking them to give me a job. I’d hate doing constituency surgeries, dealing with the sometimes idiotic and sometimes tragic problems of a self-selecting sample of my many bosses. I’d hate the constant pressure to toe the party line. I’d hate the grandstanding in the Commons chamber. I’d hate the media interviews. I’d hate having to fend off the lobbying. I’d hate knowing that holding my job was based on my popularity among tens of thousands of people I’d mostly never met.

But I think I’d really like the select committee work, which is probably the least appreciated part of an MP’s job. They get to examine issues a lot more calmly and forensically there. Sure, there’s still partisan manoeuvring and petty egomania, but it seems a lot more subdued by the setting.

So, largely inspired by the Cassilis Think Tank Round-Up, I’m periodically going to post about interesting things to come out of the select committees of the Commons (and the Lords – they may be unelected, but some of them are quite bright, you know).

If this is already being done somewhere, I’d appreciate it if somebody could tell me. Would save a lot of time…

Now, ‘Select Committee Round-Up’, while a very Ronseal title, is a bit too close a rip-off of Cassilis for my pride to bear. So I reckon the feature should have some sort of punchy-yet-not-sickening name. Alas, ‘committee’ is the most tedious word in the English language.

I toyed with ‘Committee Selections’, ‘The Committee Stage’ and ‘In the Committee Room’ – all of which make me want to weep with shame and despair. So maybe something a bit more off-the-wall. I wondered about somehow cunningly adapting a relevant quote, such as Alec Issigonis’s “A camel looks like a horse that was planned by a committee”, Milton Berle’s “A committee is a group that keeps the minutes and loses hours” or GK Chesterton’s “I've searched all the parks in all the cities/And found no statues of committees”. I may even fancy ‘This Calls for Immediate Discussion!’ But who knows? Better ideas welcome.

First edition pretty soon.


Liam Murray said...

Great idea Tom - look forward to it.

For the record I lay no claim to the use of 'Round-up' so feel free to use it. Having said that I've never liked it (it's that 'Ronseal' quality you refer to) but I'm just not creative enough to think of anything else. There's an irony in there somewhere...

Of no great help with your name but thought I'd throw these into the mix:

"A committee is a group of people who individually can do nothing, but together can decide that nothing can be done" - Fred Allen

"A committee is a cul-de-sac into which ideas are lured and quietly strangled" - Barnett Cocks

Tom Freeman said...

Both of those are very nice. It's a pity, but not in any way a surprise, that nobody seems to have anything good to say about committees!

'The Commit(tee)ments'? Oh god, that's an atrocity...

Matt M said...

"Going through the motions"?


Chris said...

It's a pity, but not in any way a surprise, that nobody seems to have anything good to say about committees!

Woodrow Wilson said 'Congress in session is Congress on public exhibition, whilst Congress in its committee-rooms is Congress at work.'