I wrote a post about it here a while ago. This implicit rejection of representative government was, I believe, easily the biggest mistake that the Labour left made in the 1980s. The unpopular policies, the wrong ones, the poor presentation, the inept campaigns, the tactical mistakes - they were all a consequence of the huge tactical victory that opposition-minded activists enjoyed when they pushed for MPs to be directly accountable to their CLPs on detailed matters of policy.
That the Conservatives generally seem to be increasingly captivated by the idea of plebiscites can only be a good thing.
Now this, from Friday's Guardian letters page:
In a democracy members of parliament are accountable to the people from whom their authority comes and to whom they are ultimately accountable.
Apart from the broad political choices that have to be made in a general election, issues sometimes arise where it is right and proper that MPs should take the opportunity of consulting their own constituents formally on major questions.
Legislation that would allow people to he imprisoned on suspicion without charge for 42 days repeals Magna Carta, and could easily be extended to cover anyone whom it was claimed might threaten national security.
The parliamentary vote in support of this was only won after the whips had imposed the most rigid three-line whip upon Labour MPs who, in a free vote, would almost certainly have defeated it.
David Davis's decision to take this issue back to his own constituents and ask for their support for his stand against this law is absolutely right.
Cynicism about politics is now widespread, and the Haltemprice byelection, fought on the question of civil liberties, will restore public confidence in parliament, which increasingly seems separated from the people it was elected to serve.
I've boldened the bits that are, to me, obviously wrong. The first two bits would not, I think, make a satisfactory sentence in an undergraduate essay entitled "What should an MP do, and how should s/he do it?" It would need some further qualification, I think?
The third bit is so plainly obviously wrong, I really can't believe that anyone would seriously write it down.
Also, before Benn descended into this madness, he used to have a reputation as a competent minister. As Hopi points out, he was a minister in the government that really did repeal Magna Carta, but he didn't resign then, did he?
All of this reawakens an old conspiracy theory that I used to nurse...