Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Thursday, 29 January 2009

How PMQs appears to most people

I was struck by this post by Ol from Cardiff Student Lib Dems who has written about a trip him and his fellow members took to the commons yesterday to watch PMQs as a guest of Jenny Willot.

He relates how a fellow student described the "baying crowds" of MPs as "so rude". Shouting down others and laughing, talking during questions and "essentially showing the worst elements of humanity". He also makes a very valuable point about how the government and parliament on the one hand wish to try and influence younger people to have respect for one other and society and yet on the other hand behave like the most juvenile pack of imbeclies.

This is something I used to think myself but over the years I have become so inured to the way PMQs and parliament in general works that I don't really even think about it any more. Indeed occasionally I have found myself chuckling at some of the jokes bandied across the despatch box and generally gettiing a bit too into it. I am not proud of this to be honest. This is no way for a modern democratic chamber to behave and it is sad that it takes a young student to point out what should be obvious to all in politics, that the behaviour of MPs in the chamber falls well short of what is should be.

The treatment of Ming Campbell when he was Lib Dem leader by the house during PMQs was appaling. It seems that he made a slightly misjudged comment on his first outing and after that, every time he stood up it was to a chorus of howling trying to drown him out and humiliate him. This is one of the reasons he ended up resigning as he could not get his points across properly in the chamber. This behaviour by MPs is absolutely reprehensible and yet you do not often hear or read any commentators condemning it and calling for change.

Sadly, I can't really imagine it changing any time soon as the protagonists like it this way. Cameron claimed when he first became Tory leader that he wanted an end to "Punch and Judy politics" but alas he is now as bad as the rest of them.

MPs will however eventually reap what they sew and the disengagement of the general population with politics will sadly continue fuelled by these sort of anachronistic displays in the chamber. Remember this the next time you hear a senior politician bemoan the general lack of engagement with politics - the systems they support cause it!

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