The big problem with Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn (it’s not Brexit) – Ayesha Hazarika

People who could become excellent MPs are being put off by the demands for slavish devotion being made by both Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn, writes Ayesha Hazarika.

Deputy Labour leader Tom Watson has defied the leadership on a number of issues (Picture: Getty Images)

Our democracy faces clear and present danger right now.

We have a Government which may well have broken the law. We have a Prime Minister whose word means nothing and may not obey the law.

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But there’s another grave threat.

Who will represent us when the next parliament returns after the general election – whenever that will be?

The shock withdrawal of the whip from 21 Conservative MPs was genuinely breathtaking.

That was mainly because we all thought it would be the Labour leadership who presided over a “Stalinist Purge” of pesky disobedient MPs.

It’s typical. Labour give it the big one about deselections and then the Tories only go and bloody do it properly... although the sword of Damocles hangs over many Labour MPs who face trigger ballots which could see them deselected.

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Labour MP for Hull North Diana Johnson – a popular, hardworking and loyal figure – has been triggered and others are worried, spending time (and a lot of money) trying to fight off Momentum on their patch.

This is also having a chilling effect on what they may normally say about the big issues on which they may disagree with their leader. Like Brexit.

Both Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn and their advisers have decided to crack the whip with MPs who have the temerity to disagree with them.

They have decided that dead-eyed, mindless loyalty to the leadership – no matter how badly it behaves or how incoherent the line to take may be – is now not just desirable but critical.

I admire those who have the guts to speak out on both sides when it has or could cost their job. From former Conservative MP Rory Stewart to Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson.

But what does this mean for the future?

I worry that, with a general election very much on the horizon, we will see parties select candidates who will parrot the politics of the leader, who will toe the line, show slavish devotion, with no danger of any critical thinking and will be docile, dumbed-down lobby fodder.

Many will rise up quickly through the ranks and soon appear on our airwaves, trotting out such embarrassing, moronic defences of their leaders, that we may one day look back and remember Kwasi Kwarteng and Richard Burgon rather fondly. Maybe not.

And with both parties adopting such an authoritarian approach, why would any bright, independent-minded, intelligent person want to be an MP right now?

MPs are sent to Parliament to represent the best interests of their constituents using their own wit and judgement – not to be supplicants.

Most people go into politics because they are characters, they have views and opinions and have made a name for themselves for being a strong individual.

Many impressive parliamentary candidates I know, who would be excellent MPs, who were selected a while ago, are watching in horror as their parties morph into something rather oppressive and are seriously questioning whether this is what they signed up for.

And who could blame them when we are seeing so many decent MPs resigning left, right and centre because they are fed up?

With all the turmoil we face as a country, we need the best and the brightest people in Parliament who won’t be afraid to say what they think and who will not be toadying yes men and women.