Sun, 16 Nov 2008
Yesterday I was sitting listening to Theresa May and Tony Wright on The Week in Westminster talking about how to change the culture of parliament and bring an end to yah boo politics. This is in the context of a Speaker's commission to discuss how to make parliament more representative of the country and heated exchanges at Prime Minister's Questions over the Baby P case. As ever, they hand wring about how the culture of the place puts people off and lament about the common image, on display at the aforementioned heated exchanges, of a room full of largely middle aged white men whose apparent approach to debate is more Sunderland FC fan than Socrates. At no point does either of them suggest the two most obvious steps that could be taken to reduce the problem.
The first is to simply ban the jeering and shouting that takes place. I don't care what anyone says about the tradition and character of British democracy or parliamentary process; it's childish, obnoxious and serves no purpose other than to satisfy the baser instincts of the participants.
The second is to abandon the whole notion of grouping MPs of the same party on adjacent benches. Setting up the chamber in an adversarial manner is hardly the best was to get away from tribalism in politics.
I'd like to think that these two simple steps would greatly reduce the unedifying spectacle of our elected representatives shouting abuse at each other across the dispatch boxes on a weekly basis. Not to mention encouraging people to think of politics and democracy as a consensual process of arriving at solutions rather than a glorified playground name calling exercise.
posted at: 22:45 #