Honourable Members: A Study of the British Backbencher

Honourable Members: A Study of the British Backbencher

Honourable Members: A Study of the British Backbencher

Honourable Members: A Study of the British Backbencher

Excerpt

This book is offered as a general examination of the role of the backbench Member of the House of Commons in the British system of government. It is concerned to argue that the individual Member is something more than a pawn in the game of party politics; that his services are essential to a democratic society; that, collectively, backbenchers can exercise significant influence over public policy. It also reviews the limitations within which Members must work. Many of the following pages are related to the parliamentary scene, but no attempt is made to provide a description of parliamentary procedure which is admirably covered elsewhere. Nor is the book concerned with the past. It includes commentary on the more important developments affecting backbenchers since 1945 but, in general, historical material has been restricted to events that are of major contemporary significance. There is, as a result, no assessment of the work of backbenchers in the exceptional conditions of war-time. The last war provided a real watershed, for 1945 marked the beginning of many changes in the pattern of parliamentary life.

To assist identification, the constituency and party affiliation are given for the Members mentioned in the text. All backbenchers noticed were still Honourable Members on the 1st May, 1958, unless the contrary is indicated. These citations have sometimes been omitted to avoid undue repetition, especially in the case of Ministers, and they are not given for statesmen of the pre-war period.

I am deeply grateful to those who have assisted me to gather information. They include Members from both sides of the House and people employed by the political parties, the civil service and the press. Probably a majority of my collaborators would not wish to be named in print, so they shall all be unmentioned. This avoids any possibility of the unfair attribution of my views--or my errors--to others. But I am very conscious of what I owe to those who have discussed or corresponded with me about the activities of backbenchers.

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