Prof. Dr. Melanie Sully

Politics on Standby - Summer 2013 Dr Melanie Sully

What are our politicians doing in the Summer?

Politics on Standby – Summer 2013 by Prof Dr Melanie SULLY

Politicians these days are expected to be available 24/7 right round the year. In the UK MPs who go off on exotic expensive holidays are not appreciated in times of austerity. That was not always so as a recent article in the “Guardian” pointed out Churchill regularly pushed off to Monte Carlo and no one got very upset. This year the UK media has highlighted deputy Prime Minister’s Clegg holiday plans which involve going abroad (Spain and France) not just once but twice. The Prime Minister will also enjoy two breaks one in Cornwall and another in France. Not only that but both PM and his deputy are away at the same time leaving the Foreign Minister and Home Minister in London for the Summer. The House of Lords dutifully bashes on in the sweltering heat until the end of July.

In Germany and Austria parliamentary elections have put a spanner in the works for any long break and it is considered politic to spend the vacation wandering in the Alps or cycling around to show interest and solidarity with the masses. The German Chancellor will be in Bayreuth and then south Tyrol.

Elsewhere politicians can often enjoy around two months break in the Summer barring special sittings. In the UK such recalls are really confined to genuine emergencies such as riots, death, war or national scandals. Also reasonable expenses incurred for cutting holidays short to return to Westminster are paid unlike in Austria where the MP has to cover the costs themselves.

In Denmark the rules allow for a long summer break which lasts from the beginning of June through to the beginning of October. Committees can continue with parliamentary business and the powerful European Affairs Committee meets with a only short break.

In Sweden for example the Government will confer in the Summer with the Committee on European Affairs and in August and September there are interpellations with questions put to Ministers by the MPs. The last week of August sees a current affairs debate on the problem of increasing inequality in society. The regular session gets underway in the middle of September.

In the UK too MPs return in September to look at some controversial legislation such as the planned bill on a lobby register and then the annual party conference season begins. As in France there is an attempt to align the summer holidays with when school children are off since MPs too should be able to enjoy premium time with the family. Generally MPs reject the idea that when they are not in the plenary they are not working. Also the UK parliament meets on a regular daily basis with the exception of some Fridays reserved for travelling to do constituency work.

In Austria too there will a chance for MPs to put questions over the summer to the government or its members, as the result of a recent reform in the rules of procedure.

More important than the length of the holidays MPs get is the quality of the work and here there is much for politicians to do in communicating the nature of the profession to a sceptical electorate who often hear primarily negative media reports.