“Think outside the box, think differently from how you started. Be prepared for tough situations.” These were the words of Robert Bob Blackman advising the Lesotho members of parliament both the national assembly and senate at the welcome reception of the United Kingdom Parliamentarians (UKMPs) who are members of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) United Kingdom parliamentarians by the British High Commissioner Harry MacDonald.
The UKMPs delegation to Lesotho leader Bob Blackman sits at the executive committee of the CPA. He has served in the UK parliament as the joint executive secretary of the 1922 Committee – a committee of all backbench Conservative MPs. He has served in the UK Parliament for 13 years and 24 years in the authority. He is a board member of the Consecutive Party and also serves in two parliament committees. He is involved in 13 other parliamentary groups which are cross-party and many other commonwealth groups.
In conversation with Informative News, Blackman says CPA works closely with all of its colleagues across the world who are part of commonwealth. As CPA they support developing democracies particularly after elections. “We had some of our colleagues who were observers during the past elections they therefore gave feedback on how the elections proceeded. Therefore, after the elections we ask if there is anything we could provide especially assistance. We are willing to give guidance, share our experiences.”
He continues that as CPA they want to reach out to the world and create more partnerships. “We don’t want to say how people should run their agenda but want to show them what we do. Most importantly from our country’s perspective is whether there may be differences in the way countries place their views or whether the British should have left the European Union or not we want to be united across the world to build friendships with all countries particularly reunite with our commonwealth partners but not limiting ourselves to being a little England.” They want to be seen as global players, give the world the opportunity to say “our experience is what we could provide.”
Much as it had been a great pleasure to be Lesotho, what they have observed is a lack of all-party parliamentary group for Lesotho.
“I think between us when we return we are going to put that right. In the UK there is a cross-party delegation that will aim to have friendship with Lesotho and build that friendship further,” Blackman said.
Blackman continues that the UK has been running as a democracy for the past thousand years and has a huge wealth of experience to share. However, it must be clear that they don’t tell other countries the way they should do things but share past similar incidents so they could learn. He adds that a lot of their country’s advances have come over time in the past 20 years in terms of the way they operate parliament. They are all learning not perfect and so is democracy.
The major objective of the UK MPs CPA branch visit was to help ministers to account and share the dynamics on how to run a committee to enquiry in parliament. CPA enables MPs to imagine scenarios where as ministers they could be asked questions also be expected to answer. For example, if there has to be a sale of huge government assets, how they go about. In responding to the challenges, the Lesotho MPs did very well, they were asking appropriate and challenging tough questions. The UK MPs were role players, ministers, experts. UK also Lesotho the opportunity to challenge what they were doing in all of the sessions that were made up.
Blackman clarifies that in the 11th parliament there are over a 100 new MPs in a 120 seating hence a huge change in representation is expected based on the MPs professions prior to parliament.
“The MPs wouldn’t necessarily be vested into how you ask questions, how you get to the roots of what someone is doing and why. The ministers also are quiet new to the parliament we are aware of that as well, thus a lot is expected to happen including civil servants and officials. So it is important to enable the MPs to fulfil their role which is to challenge the ministry, the ministers, the executives of what they are doing and why they are doing it. If assets are being sold, how does the public know, for what price and if they are getting the best deal for it. What will happen about the service, is it protected or not, what if the buyer decides to close down the service that was being offered to the public,” states Blackman.
He adds that the key role here is to allow the MPs to be active, to get them working in large numbers as effective as possibly can. He advices strongly that MPs should ask tough questions that will benefit the public.
He continued that “We told our colleagues there are no stupid questions if they want to know something they must ask questions and no one will criticize them, going along with time if you don’t ask questions become silent then you can be looking foolish.”
Where there seems to be extreme conflict of opinions, “the most important thing is that MPs need to remain calm not to lose their temper. Once calm is restored they are able to hold the government to account, ask tough questions rather that storming out, exchanging fists in the chamber. “
Blackman as the leader of the CPA UK MPs delegation to Lesotho thanked all those local parliamentarians who worked with them despite the busy schedules they already had. He also hopes they as well found the sessions useful singling out the honorable deputy speaker in the national assembly for facilitating the process as it made it a lot easier for him to work. They look forward to a warm relationship between the United Kingdom and Lesotho.