I tend to know about the bad news in the front. So I turn to the better news at the back, and work forward.

This week was, however, different. My eye was drawn to an Observer Sports Monthly cover story about Rovers' David Bentley.

He's a fantastic footballer. But this wasn't so much about Bentley's prowess on the field, as about him as a person.

He came across as someone wise beyond his years.

And I was intrigued to read that Bentley seems to be attracted to politics: "I like to tell the lads that I'm running for Prime Minister.

"I'm always watching Parliament TV. It's good banter, all those old fellas heckling Gordon Brown."

But Bentley is shrewd enough to observe "That's the advantage of being in opposition, you can get on their backs."

I can see why Bentley suggested that there are advantages to being in opposition. I spent 18 years on the opposition benches so I have some experience on which to draw.

One of the key "advantages" in opposition is that the decisions you have to take are very different from those in government - essentially they're about what you say next, not what you do next.

It's fashionable these days for everyone to take a sideswipe at politics.

But what's striking is the interest which people have in what goes on in our Parliament.

There's a myth that Parliament has diminished in importance in recent times, that it used to be much more powerful but is now dominated by an overweening executive.

Like so many myths, it has no basis in fact.

The exact balance of power between Whitehall and Westminster in part depends on the size of a government's majority.

When it's at or near zero, as it was with James Callaghan in the 70s, and John Major in the mid-90s, there could be regular cliffhangers of votes.

But it's also true that even with large majorities the erosion of deference that is evident in society generally has affected MPs too.

They are no longer willing just to do what the whips - the managers - tell them to do.

Compare that to the 1950s, regarded by some commentators as a golden age for Parliament, when the Commons was supposedly populated by independent minded MPs.

Back then there was a period of two whole years when not a single Conservative MP voted against the government line.

And Parliament has seen another important change in the last years.

Whereas MPs used to be almost solely concerned with what went on in Westminster, today they place greater emphasis on constituency work.

A study in the 1950s found that MPs received on average 12 to 20 letters a week.

Today it is reckoned that the average MP gets around 15,000 a year.

And then there are messages by phone, fax and email.

The internet is also providing new opportunities to communicate, which is why I recently established a new website: www.jackstrawmp.org.uk.

So, Mr Bentley, I read that if we don't get into Europe you may be seeking pastures new.

I'm saying a prayer that we do make sixth place and that you stay anyway.

But, when you retire, why not join "the old fellas" on the green benches?