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How Westminster Works . . . and Why It Doesn't

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But, contrary to widespread belief, ministers are rarely held to account for failed policies, such as the probation reform, but rather for failing to observe government policies. How Westminster Works reveals the rot beneath the veneer of our much venerated parliament and organs of state. Such powers are rare in most other countries: in coalitions, ministerial appointments are normally part of coalition agreements.

Dunt points out that Grayling knew nothing about the probation service or about criminal justice when he took office. Turnover and resignations reached unprecedented levels after Brexit in 2020, leaving unfilled vacancies for senior staff. The policy was wrong as it mismatched the incentives of private agencies with the functioning of the justice system, resulting in an increase in serious offences. Partisanship and the First Past the post system, in the opinion of the author, promotes majoritarianism, partisan tribalism and a deep sense of disenfranchisement for those who don’t feel they get what they are due out of our political system.The House of Lords can oppose them, sometimes successfully; the House of Commons can rarely succeed against a majority government. A Civil Service that is geared towards promoting staff based on them moving from one posting to another, rather than accumulating experience and specialist skills. Originally designed to pass uncontroversial technical changes, the technique has increasingly been exploited to get highly controversial matters through parliament.

The need was revealed by the failure of civil servants to anticipate or always to understand the international financial crisis from 2007. MPs are impossibly burdened by having to do two jobs simultaneously, first as local representatives and then as national politicians.In this seminar the author will presented some of his key arguments, before responding to questions and comments from a panel of experts and the online audience. Dunt does not waste words and opens with an amazing study of the terrible decision to privatise probation services made by Chris Grayling as a Justice Secretary, which faced little opposition all the way to implementation.

I’d developed a real politicophobia over the last five years and viewed it largely as a barren landscape of idiocy and corruption. He describes how they were created in 1979 by an independent-minded Conservative, Norman St John-Stevas—soon sacked by Thatcher because too independent—precisely to challenge prime ministerial control of the House of Commons.To be fair the author is not too scathing about the backbenchers and praises their hard work and diligence; his criticism is mainly reserved for the "career politician" and their outstanding level of incompetence and their inability to understand ordinary people. Media in Westminster is dysfunctional due to a fall in advertising revenue and the own agendas of the publishers. How Westminster Works and Why It Doesn't is essential reading, detailing the paranoiac, schizophrenic lurching about of a system designed to make most votes for its winner irrelevant.

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