Wednesday, 30 March 2011

It's time to clean up the Commons weekly slanging match


The weekly Parliamentary knockabout that passes for Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) went too far today. The regular yah-boo-sucks cheers and jeers look infantile at the best of times.
But with our military at war on several fronts and the country facing savage spending cuts at home, the opportunity to question the PM should have been, more than ever, an occasion for rational debate.
What we got instead was the regular pantomime culminating in David Cameron, irritated by Ed Balls barracking, telling the shadow chancellor to “shut up and listen for once.”
Balls seemed to take pride in being called “the most annoying person in modern politics” by the Prime Minister, although he will have to live with the epithet for the rest of his career.
The Speaker, John Bercow, appeared unfazed by the general hub-bub and actually amused by the Balls rebuke given the half-hearted way he tried to keep order.
It’s a pity British MPs, who have been elected to represent their constituents in one of the world’s oldest democratic institutions, don’t approach their duties a bit more earnestly.
They fail to realise PMQs is about the only glimpse the public – and the world at large – get of our political system at work. And then that is usually condensed for a brief slot in the television news.
The chamber seems to promote behaviour, which MPs would consider inappropriate if displayed by their own children.
I had hoped with the new influx of MPs last year Bercow would be able keep a tighter rein on Commons proceedings but this has not been so.
He need only look to the House of Lords for a template by which the serious issues of the day may be treated intelligently.

1 comment:

  1. It is interesting how, at question time, the PM can switch quickly from general managerial competence to knockabout comedy whist going for the jugular. He is also not afraid to be aggressively personal. /House of Commons shooting star/.

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