I haven’t watched Question Time for years. The same tired old formula of setting up contestants in a point scoring battle interspersed with incoherent shouting and plain prejudice became too exasperating. But after being tipped off by friends that last Thursday’s show featured that obscure giant slayer, the Tory MP for Morley and Outwood Andrea Jenkyns, I was intrigued enough to watch a bit of it on the iplayer, to see what qualities one of my successors as MP for Morley displayed.
It has to be said that she, like me, publicly called for the toppling of her leader. I sought Gordon Brown’s overthrow on the simple grounds that he was utterly unable to connect with the public. We would probably have lost the 2010 election anyway, but not by so many seats – we may have kept enough to look credible in coalition-seeking talks. Brown admitted he personally may have cost us 30 seats. Jenkyns on the other hand is a hard-nosed Brexiteer who thinks Theresa May is selling us out on Brexit. She told the QT audience that she was following her conscience, and because 60% of her constituents had voted leave, that is what she wanted too. Of course, she may herself have always been an ardent leaver, but she mixes up ‘following her conscience’ with ‘following her constituents.’ It may or may not apply in her case, but MPs who see themselves as their constituents’ delegates will in the end fail their constituents. As Brexit unfolds, and we see ‘buyers’ remorse’ setting in, the mood of constituents can change. The job of an MP is to represent their constituents’ views, but most importantly to stand up for what they think is the right course of action.
The danger of that position of course is that such MPs can be labelled out of touch and arrogant. I am sure a large swathe of pro-hanging people consider this to be the case. In the case of Brexit – a hapless mess we have got ourselves into thanks to a hapless PM (or two), a poorly designed referendum, a campaign fought with misinformation (on both sides), with electoral fraud (on one side) and lies (mainly on one side) – it is surely the job of an MP to exercise a detached, balanced judgement and seek to convince their constituents that matters of such import are treated with more than just another burst of sloganizing. Some hope.
As for Ms Jenkyns, I suspect she is making a name for herself whilst she still can. The most recent Boundary Commission proposals would see Morley and Outwood divided between two seats which are likely to retain Labour majorities. In psephological terms that should end the historical aberration of Morley not having a Labour MP, which it did between 1935 and 2015.