Thinker's Corner

Under Pressure: are we getting the most from our MPs? edited by Greg Power (Hansard Society, St Philips Building, Sheffield St, London WC2A 2EX, £10, ISBN 0 900432756) questions the effectiveness of our MPs. Apparently, they are not coping too well. In one of the five essays, the psychologist Dr Ashley Weinberg shows how politicians suffer from very high stress levels, with 80 per cent of MPs working more than 55 hours a week. Greg Power, the director of the Hansard Society's Parliament and Government Programme, believes that public expectations of elected representatives have grown. He argues that this increased pressure has not been accompanied by sufficient improvements to facilities, hours or procedures. Anne Campbell MP writes: "The use of laptops in committee rooms is forbidden. I was told that it was because MPs might be tempted to do their own work." It seems that those who advocate our rights aren't able to stand up for themselves.

Old Wine, New Bottle: the just war tradition and humanitarian intervention by Sir Hugh Beach and Roy Isbister (ISIS, Strand Bridge House, 138-142 The Strand, London WC2 1RH) attempts to justify "humanitarian" wars according to the "just war tradition", a set of principles traced back to Cicero and Thomas Aquinas. Using Nato's intervention in Kosovo as a case study, Beach and Isbister argue that, if each of the six principles (just cause, legitimate authority, right intention, probability of success, last resort and proportionality and non-combatant immunity) is respected, then armed force is legitimate. In their view, "Nato's actions led to more good than harm and [were] justified in terms of the high standards of moral objectivity"; but, due to civilian suffering and failure to intervene in similar conflicts elsewhere, the intervention is "a very flawed example". The authors seem to forget that the main difficulty is not coming up with noble concepts, but putting them into practice.

This article first appeared in the 30 October 2000 issue of the New Statesman, Divorce your husband and watch him get rich