The A List is a constitutional issue. Why? The British Constitution is just three words long; "Parliament is sovereign." Whatever Parliament says, goes. Whether they want liberty or death camps or anything in between, the choice is with Members of Parliament. It's as simple as that.
For centuries, simple was fine. Candidate members of Parliament came forward of their own accord or were selected by local parties. Leaders of the Parliamentary parties had to work with the (often eccentric) materials at hand. Not any more.
Centralised party control of candidate selection means that few independent-minded individuals find their way into Parliament. Once selected and elected, they join a parliament of poodles. They must vote as directed by the Whips if their career is to advance. For the ruling party, that means taking orders, via the Government Whips, from the PM. "Damn your principles," as Disraeli famously said, "stick to your Party!" That he became angry enough to say it, suggests there were MPs who stuck to their principles. Not any more.
Unless you foment a rebellion too large to be punished (and manage not to be caught in the attempt), disobeying the Whips is career suicide. No promotion, no junkets, no pork barrels for your constituency. You may even be physically assaulted. The Whips are aptly-named. We have no "separation of powers" enshrined in a written constitution. If our Legislature submits, under such pressures, to the will of the Executive, we don't have a functioning democracy. It has and we don't. Not any more.
The party leaders' influence on candidate selection is therefore a constitutional issue. The chances of an independent candidate running on a "Save the Constitution" ticket are minimal. Don't think I haven't considered it. If candidates continue to be selected for their poodle-like qualities, the future is pretty bleak.
This has a chilling effect on debate. MPs stay relentlessly "on message", even when that means contradicting their known personal views. The Tories under Cameron have performed an astonishing volte face, with no apparent shame. They appear to be competitors in a bizarre self-degradation contest. It is every bit as distressing to watch as when Labour's proletarian boors tried to become New Labour metrosexuals in imitation of Mandelson, Blair and Brown. It may explain the S&M predilections of some MPs. If you want to be dominated, Parliament is the place.
Even those who aspire to be candidates are affected. 18 Doughty Street is a great idea but so far it has been a disappointment. Iain Dale's political ambitions undermine him as a would-be Paxman. He deftly steers debate away from any issue that might bring him into disfavour with the Party leadership. Melanie Philips made a whole series of strong anti-Cameron points in a short film presumably designed to stimulate debate recently. Iain just said "Well I don't think I agree with any of that" and moved discussion on to safer topics.
If even a potential candidate is afraid to discuss issues freely, what kind of a democracy do we have? Until there is even a remote risk of someone with my views being an MP, I feel disenfranchised. Judging by the turnout in recent elections, I am not alone.