Select Committee on Public Administration Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 100-109)




  100. What do you mean?
  (Mr Bragg) A politician's answer. To come back to a point that you raised Anthony D that name makes you sound like a rapper—you said something about me running for office. This is a bit of a cliché but nonetheless it is true, politics is too important to be left to politicians. It is as much about those of us who are outside the closed circle talking among ourselves, organising among ourselves, bringing pressure on you people. That is as much part of the political process as what you people do across the road there.

Mr Wright

  101. But the political process is very important. Without politicians there would be anarchy perhaps?
  (Mr Bragg) Without?

  102. Without politicians.
  (Mr Bragg) I am not saying we should abolish the political class per se. I am talking about how we draw people in who are not willing to go through the difficult process of selection. There is something in your report where you state that one of the reasons why you want to keep appointment for the House of Lords is because you doubt whether people would want to stand for election. It is pretty much a rough and tumble process, as you will know if you have ever been approached by someone dressed as a Roman centurion while you have been on the stump. I accept exactly what you are saying about the weirdness of people who put themselves through that process. If we were using a list system and proportional representation for the second chamber they would not have to go through that process. They could be elected through the list without having to go out on door steps. Frankly, I think we would be doing them a favour because if somebody turned up on my doorstep and said, "Vote for me, I am one of 60 per cent of the people who are going to scrutinize on your behalf", I would be saying to them, "If you really want to do something about it perhaps you should become an MP."

  103. Talking about House of Lords' reform, as a politician I think it is wonderful that we are taking this on board and it is certainly long overdue, but do the general public really see that as an important topic? NHS waiting lists and education are the issues that people will go and vote for; House of Lords' reform is not an issue.
  (Mr Bragg) I think you are right. Again, it is not a bread and butter issue. I do not think it is as important as reforming the NHS or education, I completely accept that, but it is a high profile issue—If you want to address the present mistrust that people have about politics in general and the cynicism they direct towards people in your profession, then it is an important issue if you wish to do something about that. That is one area where you can say, "We are going to change this, open this up, and let daylight come into this, bring in people from the regions. We are capable of changing and your sense of us being a bunch of —"


  104. We can make up the rest!
  (Mr Bragg) You can. If you really want to address that, then it is a key issue and that is the way to do something that is high profile enough to get the electorate's attention. Look at how much attention was garnered by Lord Stevenson's recommendations through the Appointments Commission. Many, many people read about that. If you were opening it up and bringing those people in, I think you would find it became very, very popular and the way they voted and the way they disported themselves in the chamber would suddenly become a very public issue.

Mr Wright

  105. We cannot disenfranchise a large proportion of the general public in terms of a lower age limit that you would set. If you are talking about 25-year-olds—
  (Mr Bragg) I would say 18-year-olds would be better as the voting age. I was just using that as an example. I would like to see more young people visible. I suppose it comes back to what we were talking about before about the way you present yourselves. It is about the visibility of politicians. How do you make yourself more visible without resorting to the Screaming Lord Such image? How do you bring your different faces and your different voices in? That is a problem. If you look at the experience of the Scottish and the Welsh Assemblies and the election for the Mayor of London, it was the alternative voices that eventually came to the fore. It was those people who were from outside, not outside the political process per se obviously, but outside what the Prime Minister/the Government wanted, who eventually came through, and that was because people were engaged. They saw that there was an opportunity to express themselves in a different way. People did go out and vote for Ken Livingston because they had been given the opportunity to register how they felt about the situation in London and they went out and did that. The way things have gone in Scotland and in Wales does show that when you give people the choice and give them the opportunity to express a different point of view, they will express that different point of view. It may not be a radically different one. The difference between Rhodri Morgan's leadership of the Labour Group in Wales is not that different from his predecessors. The thing that made him so much a focus for the press and the electorate was that he was Wales' man; he was not London's man. If you can give people more opportunity to feel that the person they put in, even though he is a Labour Party member, even though he is a long-term politician, is their man. With Rhodri he is felt to be their man. I think that is so important.


  106. We must end there. The Clerk, who is obviously a man with history, tells me that Anthony D could easily be a punk name!
  (Mr Bragg) More of a rap name actually—he is showing his age—but I have already said that into the record.

  Chairman: We will never see him in quite the same way again.

Mr Wright

  107. I mentioned the fact that at times I like to dress down. Are there any times when you dress up?
  (Mr Bragg) The last time I wore a tie, and it was an NUM tie, I was being arraigned for cutting a fence at a nuclear installations in Norfolk, so court appearances, funerals, those kinds of things.


  108. There is no way of saying this without sounding pompous and middle aged, but you are the antidote to cynicism and you are a voice that we need to listen to. We are grateful for hearing your views.
  (Mr Bragg) I appreciate that. To those of you who are hoping to listen to my voice, I must say I have a new album out this week!

  109. It got four stars in The Guardian. I hope tonight's gig goes as good as this one.
  (Mr Bragg) I am sure it will. Thank you very much for having me. I appreciate this opportunity to come and speak to you. Thank you very much for inviting me.

previous page contents

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 28 March 2002