Thursday, February 26, 2009

Idiot abroad

Ultimately, in a parliamentary democracy, the buck stops … in parliament. However powerful a government might think itself to be, it lives and dies by permission of parliament, which can bring it down with one vote of confidence.

Short of that nuclear option, the day-to-day work of scrutinising government is – or should be – carried out by the select committees. They are the bodies that really get down to detail, call the witnesses and examine the documents, producing at great expense detailed reports which, themselves often provide the basis of debates on the floor of the House. That is how the system works … or should do. Except it doesn't – not, at least when it comes to the Defence Committee.

This one has failed to deliver. And when a committee fails, it is important – it means that a vital part of our parliamentary democracy has failed. But who the hell cares? We do … and look at the mess on Defence of the Realm.