Monday, 7 February 2011

Zac Goldsmith - An Insider's View

One of Nonsuch HP's correspondents recently attended a meeting between Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith and his local constituents. The meeting raised some fascinating issues, with his attitude towards referendums and the use of Parliament being of particular interest to AS Politics students. Many thanks for BM for providing this - here is her report...

Zac Goldsmith, Tory MP for Richmond Park & North Kingston, speaks about flaws in the UK’s democratic system.
On Thursday 3rd February, Zac Goldsmith came to talk to his constituents at a local church. I along with around 30 others attended to pose questions and hear the MP discuss with us important issues that affected our lives. Much of the hour long meeting was taken up discussing local issues such as the Kingston bingo hall being turned into a night club, and the new crime map system which shows levels of crime around the constituency. However as well as this, several important national issues were brought up. The privatisation of forests is a very conscientious issue, which many conservatives and liberal democrats in general discussion seemed opposed to. However when the time came for the vote, only 6 LibDem/Tory MPs voted against, Zac Goldsmith being one of them.
This led onto the point which he admirably raised about the dysfunctional nature of parliament, where MPs have lost the ability to think for themselves, being voted in and then being ‘lobotomised’ to follow the orders of those above them. As well as this, amendments offered by backbenchers are seen as being an act of hostility, leading to them generally being ignored. Zac considers Labour under Ed Miliband as being an ineffective opposition as they do not appear to be making relevant points that may actually achieve something and as a result the government is not being held to account. The fact that parliament is no longer effectively doing this has caused it in many ways to be ‘broken’.
Zac Goldsmith also discussed with us the referendum on AV, deeming it to be a waste of time, and a distraction from what the government should really be focussing on. He claims that AV would just cause a reshuffle of seats here and there, but nothing major would come from it. And what the government should instead be pushing is the idea of recalling MPs, which at the beginning seemed to be a key policy, but has appeared to have lost some vigour. This, in Zac’s view would be much more beneficial to the people, as some of the power would be given back to them. Zac also agrees that more people need to participate in elections, and this could be done through the use of referendums, creating a more direct democracy. Countries such as Switzerland are criticised for using them too much, but at least the people are having their say. This would engage people in politics as they would feel involved, as just having one vote every five or so years is not substantial.
The talk then moved to finances, with bankers and the richest of the countries being criticized for their cunning methods of paying as little tax as possible. In Goldsmith’s view, the figures that are being thrown around in the media are largely guesses and wild assumptions, and there is no real way of knowing how big the issue is. As well as this he raises the important issue that if the taxes are raised too high for the rich, it would encourage this behaviour of using offshore banks to store money, or alternatively, the rich person in question could just up and leave to another country where the tax is far lower. There is a fine line, and the government have to be very careful not to cross this line, the lower the tax, the more likely that the more elite of society are to pay it.

PS: For further Goldsmith updates, here is a link to his blog.

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