How effective are Back Bench MP’s? (40 Marks)Possible answer, mark scheme & examiners reportRepresenting - Good on a constituency basis ----> Westminster Hall to debateAwful as a collective body ----> Mainly White, Male and middle class [only 143 womenmps etc... not multicultural]Accountability - Good ----> Can take part in scrutiny ------> e.g. Select CommitteesBad ----> Independent minded MPs are suppressed via the whipsGood ----> They as a collective body have the ultimate power to remove thegovernment ----> VONC e.g.1979Legislating - Almost bad in every way ----> Elective dictatorship----> proposing a legislation is difficult unless financed by a pressure group or if it hasgov supportDebates - Good ----> Allows MPs to have a voice on important issues such as EUrelationsBad ----> Debates must be requested and will only be accepted if it doesnt embarrassthe government meaning that controversial issues such as Iraq wont be discussed.ineffective because they are not members of the cabinet and therefore are not asincluded in the decision making process,less media coverage than frontbench MPs who are able to reflect their views on currentaffairs programmes such as Question time.effective, due to the fact that they are members of parliament; parliament is sovereignand the supreme law making authority, they are less pressured to tow the party line,and are more able to carry out constituency duties.Mark SchemeThe roles of backbench MPs (also the role of the Commons in general) include thefollowing, together with factors determining positive and negative factors affectingeffectiveness. :Representing the interests of constituents – Some opportunities exist to raise issues.MPs vary in how much constituency work they do.Representing various sections of the community and political causes.
Varies from MP to MP. Some can be effective, e.g. Caroline Lucas.Debating issues in the Chamber.Largely ritualised, unlikely to influence outcomes.Work on select committees.Strong influence and becoming stronger. Examples include work of Tom WatsonWork on legislative committees.Whipped and unlikely to have any influence.Work on party policy committees.Decreasing role in view of think tanks and policy agencies.Sometimes developing private member’s legislation - Rare and difficult.Calling ministers and government generally to account. Some success, though ministersare adept at avoiding answers.MPs lack research help and often expertise.A Level 2 response will typically exhibit the following features:At least two roles of MPs explored, together with some knowledge of both strengthsand weaknesses of those roles.A Level 3 response will typically exhibit the following features:At least three roles of MPs explored, together with sound knowledge of both strengthsand weaknesses of those roles.Examiners reportIt was encouraging to see that the vast majority of candidates did attempt anevaluation of MPs work, rather than merely describing it. Naturally, the quality anddepth of evaluation varied, but most candidates did approach the question correctly. Itwas also remarkable that most candidates recognised the different and varying roles ofMPs. Many did ignore constituency work, although referring to that aspect was not aprerequisite for a high mark.Many good responses differentiated between effective constituency work by MPs andineffective work on, for example, legislative scrutiny.
A widespread failing, however, was good evaluation of the growing importance ofdepartmental select committees and there was especially a lack of examples.For example, the work of members of the Culture, Media and Sport select committeeapropos the behaviour of the press was rarely referred to. Nearly all, however,understood the importance of the power of the whips, patronage and party loyalty.The majority of answers were also well-constructed, with useful introductions andconclusions. The coherence of the writing, especially the evaluative passages, variedgreatly. The very best responses tended to explore the question what doeseffectiveness actually mean? - making their evaluations much more successful thanthe average. For example, those who remarked that MPs, especially of the governingparty(ies), are there to provide legitimacy, not just to check executive power, gave amore textured evaluation than most.An example of a very solid answer, with especially strong introduction and conclusion.