The Mojo Mathers incident: Look at the the process, not the person

So, this afternoon I tweeted about the Mojo Mathers situation in Parliament. I was annoyed that a lot of the talk was directed at the personalities, and not enough at the mechanisms

Brief recap: Mathers is a deaf MP. She requested communication support from the Speaker, a position currently held by one Dr. Lockwood Smith, erstwhile television gameshow host and former marine biologist. Dr. Smith’s response was to require Ms. Mathers to pay for the specialist, disability-related support services out of her general MP’s support service fund.

Personalities: Yes, Dr. Smith is a dyed-in-the-wool social conservative. I’m quite sure he’s a sympathetic man, but it’s far too easy to imagine he’s just ignorant that differently abled people have problems of any real significance.

Right there’s my first problem. Is it that easy? This is a highly educated and very experienced public figure.

Before I move on, I also want to make this very clear: I believe a terrible thing occurred. If MPs have a capped personal support fund, it is inappropriate for a deaf person to effectively have $30,000 less than any other MP just to function as an equal.

Here’s the thing. What really happened is this:

  • Mathers asks Speaker for support
  • Speaker seeks advice
  • Advice given based on best interpretation of standing orders
  • Speaker passes on advice

Thaaaat’s all folks. Lockwood Smith may or may not be any number of unPC things, but the role of the Speaker as she is played is  as a functionary rather than an idealist. It’s a neutral role. Might there be improvements made on the Westminster model? I’m not clever enough to say. Should civil servants advise with passion? I think so, and I think this could have happened here. Other solutions could have been sought.

Is Mojo Mathers going to get her support? Yes, and I would hazard a guess from the speaker’s office. Should there be no way for the current standing orders to designate an existing appropriation for the activity, it is perfectly possible to introduce new standing orders.

Not that it wasn’t just darling of that nice Mr. Key to (wildly inappropriately) offer to pay for the service from government coffers.

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About seanmurgatroyd
Library (Shared blog): http://diligentroom.wordpress.com/ Personal including infoculture, book reviews: http://diligentroom.wordpress.com/ Music: http://seanfishmusic.wordpress.com/ Last.fm band page: http://www.last.fm/music/Seanfish @seanfish

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