On the Spectator blog, Isabel Hardman does a fantastic job in exposing a particular internet meme as a straightforward lie.
You probably know the message in question. It’s the one that has two pictures of the House of Commons side by side – one empty chamber, labelled ‘debate on welfare’ (or something like that); and another of a full chamber, with the label ‘debating MPs’ salaries’. The idea being that MPs are lazy and selfish.
Personally, I don’t think you [Isabel] go far enough. Anyone who has spent time following legislation in Westminster knows that the smaller the number of people who attend, a better debate it is. PMQs and other marquee events are showpieces and are rubbish examples of democracy. My ideal debate is one where about 8 people show up: a junior minister, their shadow, and a smattering of MPs that actually know about the issue. In those situations you get proper deliberative democracy: polite debate on matters of substance, with concessions, compromise and consensus, all of which are far easier to achieve when the House is not in Braying Mob mode.
Anyone who thinks that MPs are lazy know-nothings should visit a public bill committee debate – say, day 5 of 5 – and listen to them talk for hours about a line here or a word there. They’ve all read the legislation and the research supplied with it. They have all thought about what needs to change in the bill, and they’re doing it in a cordial manner. It’s dull dull dull, but does restore a sense of faith in Parliament.