Thursday, June 12, 2008
Over in the USA getting ‘pork’ (spending of taxpayers funds on local projects) for your district is an essential, even respectable, part of a Congresscritters job. They boast about how many millions they claw back in their re-election literature and if they didn’t bring in the money they would be out.
Members of our blessed Parliament don’t have the same tools as their US counterparts. Here, only a minister of the Crown can introduce a motion instructing how to allocate public funds. And in any case amendments to Westminster legislation have to fall within the scope of the broad purposes of the bill being considered as set out in the preamble. So MPs cannot add ‘riders’ to bills totally irrelevant to the main legislation but bringing localised benefits. In the USA Congersspeople do backstage deals with each other supporting someone else’s pet bit of local influence buying in exchange for support for their own. A million or so in support of a local roads programme inserted into a bill dealing with (say) the teaching or foreign languages to army personnel in exchange for support for the building of a technical school elsewhere would be the sort of thing routinely done in the USA.
But when a Westminster Parliamentary vote is close MPs have an opportunity to get a bit of backroom earmarking. And so it seems to have been with the 42-day detention vote.
P.G.Wodehouse lovers will recall the short story about Lord Emsworth’s pig the Empress of Blandings going off her feed just before the Shropshire Agricultural show. She is induced to eat when a young man with experience raising hogs out in the USA introduces his Lordship to the universal hog-callers cry to bring pigs to the trough.
His Lordship is appropriately grateful and backs the romantic liaison between the youth in question and one of his nieces (as I recall…) to the great consternation of the starchy aunts back in the castle.
So for a number of Labour MPs (and the DUP) the appropriate greetings as they wander through Westminster today might be a concerted cry of