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How Westminster Works . . . and Why It Doesn't

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Dunt stresses how exhausting and time-consuming is the work of MPs, their difficulties in achieving work-life balance.

By 2017, the complex new organization was falling apart, causing serious harm, including murders, by incompetently supervised probationers.They included Richard Titmuss and Brian Abel-Smith from the LSE to apply their expertise in pensions policy. Their meetings are private and unwhipped and a 2016 survey found that the chairs rebel against the government more than backbenchers. If there was room for one more chapter, I would have liked to see something about how those changes could actually be achieved.

It was approved by the Treasury and required no new legislation, so there was no parliamentary debate, and it was largely ignored in the media, apart from the Guardian which made a sustained assessment of its effects. The consequence of Grayling’s privatisation was a breakdown in the capacity of the probation service to keep tab on probationers, resulting in a spike in reoffending.The reality is that despite all the coverage, hardly anyone understands how Westminster actually works. The people of Japan believe that everyone has an ikigai - a reason for being; the thing that gets you out of bed each morning. I guess that makes the book a paragon of the type of political system that Ian Dunt proposes - something far less adversarial than the present bear pit. Dunt rightly points out that, certainly since Blair was PM in the 2000s, party leaders have controlled local selections to curb backbench challenges. Knowledge is empowerment, and this is the sort of change where a knowledgeable public putting pressure is a good way forwards.

Turnover has increased, faster than in the many countries where reshuffles require coalition agreement. Cabinet ministers often appear poorly briefed, but they may have up to 20 meetings a day and can’t always start on their red boxes until the rest of us have already gone to bed.

This is presumably because those interviewees are still at work in a system about which it is too risky to speak thoughtfully and honestly.

Similarly, he argues for the implementation of various recommendations of constitutional changes that have been proposed throughout the past decades (like the Wright Committee) most notably the introduction of the Parliamentary Business Committee with the power for the Commons to set its own timetable and agenda. He describes how MPs rarely stand up to governments with a clear majority—the whips take care of that. We have prime ministers who detonate the economy, secretaries of state who are intellectually incapable of doing the job and MPs who seem temperamentally unsuited to the role.

In The Coldest Case: A Black Book Audio Drama, homicide detective Billy Harney sends his new partner, Kate, deep undercover in a notorious Chicago drug ring. How Westminster Works and Why It Doesn't is, simply put, the best explainer of any political system I've read. The only man in history to complete elite training as a Navy SEAL, Army Ranger, and Air Force tactical air controller, he went on to set records in numerous endurance events.

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