Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Order. Order!

Is it really any wonder that people don't feel connected or interested in politics anymore? We're all sick and tired of (but still enraged by) the expenses scandal by now, but that doesn't mean I can't find other things to get riled up about. Let me start by saying that I'm an AS-Level politics student, with a real interest and passion for politics, so if these MPs are annoying me and causing me to become disillusioned with our political system and politicians, I can only imagine the disdain and anger that less boring people than myself are feeling.

Harriet Harman turning

Each week for a while now I've watched Prime Minister's Questions on a Wednesday after I've arrived home from school. We all know that nothing serious ever gets done during this 30 minute session, but, in amongst the sycophantic comments of governing party members and angry heckling from all around, at least the MPs occasionally goad the PM into referencing policy, giving a reasonable answer, or pledging to look into something. In the run-up to an election it's expected that it becomes more a public political manoeuvering event than having any semblance to policies or the running of the country. However, today it was worse than ever, with repeated heckling; Members loudly speaking over others; a Speaker who seemed to stop caring; and even some tasteless barking thrown into the mix.

My initial reaction to this week's farcical half an hour was disgust. MPs, particularly from the Opposition benches, are all too happy to criticise the standard of education and say that tougher measures are need to improve the behaviour of pupils, but never in my entire school career have I seen any children behaving like these elected Members of Parliament did today. Perhaps, like children behaving badly for a substitute teacher, the MPs were kicking off at having the leaders of the parties absent - Brown was replaced by Harman, Cameron by Hague, and Clegg by Cable.

I could put up with Harman dodging questions and shrilly shrieking about the same issue (Lord Ashcroft) no matter what the question was, but the behaviour from what appears to be most MPs was bloody disgusting. I have always wondered why they're incapable of keeping their mouths shut when someone else is speaking during PMQs, but it seems to be accepted that anyone who feels inclined can shout out anything they desire, but today even I, watching through a the BBC Parliament recording on my PC, struggled at times to hear those speaking; and felt great affinity with the MP sitting behind Cable, who had to lean forward to hear him speak.

Vincent Cable heckled
To quote the Guardian: "It's getting a bit farcical now. Phil Wilson (Lab) asks a question. Harman doesn't hear it. Wilson asks it again."

It's not helpful for a handful of Conservative MPs to ceaselessly and repeatedly say "What about Michael Brown?" or "Michael Brown" whilst Cable is speaking. It's testament to the immaturity and lack of self-control of some members of the House that one of them thought it would be a good idea to imitate a dog yap after Betty Williams had asked a question about the Dangerous Dogs Act - an issue which relates to deaths and injury, particularly amongst children. But apparently none of that matters so long as the MP was able to get a cheap laugh from his pals.

However, perhaps the most disgusting thing about this farcical show of shameless ego-boosting was that the constant rumble of chatter and heckling, which goes on even when MPs are asking a question and is thought of as perfectly normal, disrupted proceedings by getting to a level which prevented Harman hearing the question. This caused great amusement to other MPs. As a child and student, I've been brought up to politely remain quiet when someone is making a point or asking a question; is that too much to ask of those who have the honour of sitting in Parliament and influencing the future of the nation?

Bercow is quite right when he says that their behaviour is a big turn-off to the public, but he seemed to give up on trying to control this class of rowdy teenagers after two or three attempts. We all know that letting children get away with behaviour only encourages them to do it more; the same obviously applies to MPs during PMQs, when their inner-child comes raging to the surface, and they all seem lose control of their vocal chords.

To any MPs reading this, I would call on you to remember that you've been elected by your constituents to represent them. Acting like an insolent child is not helpful to anyone - especially not yourselves now you all have such tarnished reputations. I'd like to think I speak for the public when I say that we expect our MPs to be sensible and take their job seriously; we don't expect you to use the weekly Wednesday session as an excuse to fling insults, petty comments and noises at each other. Today's performance was an absolute disgrace. If you were students, you'd have been flung out of the classroom in a flash. If you've managed to disillusion a student with a keen interest and passion for politics, then just imagine the effect your behaviour is having on others. Just be thankful that more people don't watch PMQs, or else everyone would see what an absolute shambles the House of Commons becomes during Prime Minister's Questions. Are you really so childish at heart that you need to be told by the Speaker that "It doesn't make much sense for members to shout at the tops of their voices and then complain when someone isn't heard."?

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