The Commons needs to hear the voice of all the people directly speaking for themselves not having elite representatives speaking for them, says Denis MacShane.
For David Cameron the problem with the Commons is that is too big. At a time when the citizen feels weaker and weaker, often alone, against the bureaucrats and bullies of banks, utility firms, town halls, government agencies, mean employers, HMRC, CSA, E.ON, G4S, and all the other power-holders over our lives hiding behind initials it is a perverse decision to cut by 50 the people's advocates. It is a decision one might expect from a Stalinist centraliser not a traditional Tory.
With luck and common sense from LibDems and Tories in touch with the grass roots this reduction in representivity can be reversed. But whether the Commons has 650 or 600 members matters less than the startling absence of hugh swathes of the population - namely those who do low pay work, citizens who are incomers from different continents, single parents trying to exist on part-time pay.
When I entered the House in 1994 many of my fellow Yorkshire Labour MPs had left school to work while still teenagers. The wretched class divisions that still disfigure our nation had denied them the chance to show their talents. Industrial trade unions were a ladder up for the skilled and talented working class. They produced legislators of genius like Aneuran Bevan who gave Britain the NHS. Still the best single sound-biter in the Commons is Dennis Skinner and the best efforts of the Old Etonian Prime Minister to patronise or condescend to working class Skinner fail miserably.
But the working class MP is a dying breed. So too is the industrial working class as the massed battalions of car or steelworkers have been replaced by robots (of whom there are not enough in the Commons if whips are to believed!)
It was the rise of the Labour Party that allowed workers to enter Parliament even if the Labour leaders like Attlee, Gaitskill, Wilson, Blair and Miliband were all Oxford graduates. It was also the Labour Party that took the lead in opening wider the doors to women MPs. The all-women short lists were bitterly contested but worked. David Cameron's A list also allowed some more able women to become Tory MPs.
Only the LibDems have remained pale and mainly male as the LibDems shun BME and women candidates to be MPs
But the pool of Parliamentary talent remains very shallow. More and more the full-time party or ministerial aide get the winnable seats. The charge of not having a proper job is silly. From Pitt to Cameron our PMs have entered politics as a full-time profession at a very early age.
But increasingly the broad mass of MPs comes from a narrow stratum. Is it possible for any of the parties to construct short lists that advantage poorer peoplem workers or those on the minimum wage? Difficult but not impossible. Similar arguments were used againt all-women short lists in their time.
The Commons needs to hear the voice of all the people directly speaking for themselves not having elite representatives speaking for them.
Denis MacShane is Labour MP for Rotherham. Follow on @denismacshane http://www.denismacshane.com/