There are a million ways I could frame the argument that the UK government is completely out of touch. But today I’m going to pick on something seemingly superficial: their vernacular.
They shout. They boo. They jeer. They sneer. They hiss. It’s like a pantomime. But instead of cross-dressing dames and magical beanstalks, we have pink-cheeked ex-Etonians and gridlocked legislation.
Let’s start with John Bercow, Speaker of the House. You know, the man in the black robe who sounds like a bad Michael McIntyre impression? I have a lot of questions about his role.
His job is maintain order (or ‘odd-deuh’) inside the House of Commons. I don’t know if his job description listed ‘must wear dashing black gown’ or whether that’s a personal choice, but it makes him seem strange and otherworldly. More fitted to teaching potions at Hogwarts than being in charge of Parliament.
Why must he have to shout? Someone get the man a mic! And why must it be ‘oddd-deuhhh’? Would ‘be quiet, please’ not work just as well?
The explanation behind the robes and courtroom voice is probably ‘because it’s tradition’ but I think that excuse is bollocks.
What is tradition, anyway?
It just doesn’t make sense to me. Why is Parliament so stuck in the past? I understand that it’s a historical institution but eventually things have to change to reflect the way we live now. Heck, I’d even settle for 50 years ago. That would still be a huge leap forward.
Did Queen Victoria’s Parliament speak as though they were in the Tudor era? Probably not. So why are we emulating the past now?
To many people, tradition represents respect and order. But I don’t think that’s the case in Parliament. Think of the chaos that frequently ensues (or just watch the video at the top of the article). What about when hundreds of red-faced men are jeering and shouting at each other as John Bercow bellows at them to be civil? And as for respect? Well, that’s in short supply.
Let’s take the ‘Right Honourable’ as an example. You’ll often hear MPs refer to higher-ranking politicians as ‘my Right Honourable Friend’ and so on. First of all, why is that necessary? What’s wrong with just saying ‘Bob Smith’?
Right Honourable is a status symbol but it’s not always used with respect – half the MPs are dripping with sarcasm whenever they use it. Think about it, every time Theresa May addresses Jeremy Corbyn with ‘Right Honourable’, you can tell she’s thinking ‘that prick with the beard’. What’s the point in using this longwinded title? There isn’t one. Next.
They’re not representing us (unless you happen to be a posh hooligan)
MPs’ ridiculous behaviour makes us forget that the House of Commons is a workplace. We pay these people to represent us and sort out important issues. Parliament should be held as an exemplary workplace. Not a boys’ club.
If I acted like an MP during one of my departmental meetings – hissing, jeering (no, I’m not going to try it) – I’d be asked to leave the room. In fact, my boss would probably advise I went home until my bout of Georgianitus has subsided.
All this just furthers elitism. If you’re not posh, white and male, you’re left out. I don’t feel like Rees-Mogg over ‘ere respects people who aren’t old Etonians. How on earth do female/BAME/LGBT+ people put up with life in the Commons? Some just leave. And worse still, many caring, intelligent, passionate people who could make this country a better place don’t even run, because they know they’d be made to feel unwelcome in Parliament. And they don’t see how they could make a difference. I can’t blame them.
- 80% of the Conservative Party are men.
- Overall, only 32% of MPs are women.
- There are only 45 LGBT+ members of Parliament.
- 598 of the 650 MPs are white.
This isn’t even close to representing the population of the UK. How can Parliament make decisions that benefit us all when we’re not all being represented? The House of Commons needs to be an appealing, welcoming environment to encourage a diverse range of MPs. We need to be telling them to do better.
They’re a real turn off
How many times have you switched on a live debate only to turn off because the MPs were acting like unruly Victorian schoolchildren? Their behaviour distances them from us – the public.
It’s hard to follow the discussion and understand what’s going on because we can’t relate to it. To us, they’re just behaving like a load of silly arses. They come across as smug. Posh. Privileged. Loud. Pointless. Irritating. Dickheads.
I’m in a minority of people who are interested in politics – and it’s so hard to get people to muster enthusiasm when they’re watching a load of crusty white dudes sneering and jeering. But we should all be interested. These people are making decisions that affect our lives. Perhaps if these people looked and spoke more like us, we’d be more interested in what they had to say.
If I were feeling cynical, I’d say it’s all part of a sinister scheme. By making people disconnected from what’s happening at Westminster, we are a) less informed and b) don’t play an active role in what’s happening. Those people are there to represent us. We need to understand – and to care – about what they do and say. But they’re making it extremely difficult.
So, here’s my challenge to our MPs: Talk to each other like normal human beings. Let us be part of the conversation. Actually represent the average person – that’s your job, after all. And be the standard to aspire to, not to ridicule.
Please, join us in 2019.