I am one of those people who, where possible, tunes in to Prime Ministers questions every week. Time and time again, I am disappointed with, even humiliated by the poor behaviour of our country’s representatives. In other nations, debates appear to be civilised and mature, while still being able to show passion and dedication to their cause. In the House of Commons, it’s like watching the fat boys scrambling for the last curly wurly in the Eton tuck shop.
I am not even remotely satisfied with the behaviour of our elected representatives and do not hold with the explanation that it is tradition. The House of COMMONS, so named to highlight the common nature of its inhabitants, is not in the slightest representative of the kinds of behaviour “common” people are expected to display while at work or in public. Indeed such confrontational behaviour in the private home is likely to receive a police visit when neighbours complain about the rabble. It’s about good manners. The general pubic are expected to conform to a particular code of good manners and just because a person is a member of the House of Commons does not exclude them from this convention. In fact, it should make them more susceptible to conformity.
I find it shameful that we are expected not only to witness, but to accept such juvenile and bullying behaviours between our elected representatives, while they sit and criticise gang and anti-social behaviour of those they represent. If our Members of Parliament are meant to be respectable professionals, that society is meant to look up to, why then are they allowed to behave like wild animals fighting over the remains of a carcass? It’s like feeding time at the zoo, while others starve on the policies they allegedly debate. It appears to be a case of do as I say, not as I do.
Every week since starting watching Prime Ministers questions, I have witnessed those in power insult on a personal level and bully other MPs due to age, gender, disability (or lack thereof) and many other protected characteristics under the equality act. If this was a normal place of work, there would be disciplinary, and possibly legal action, but instead we pay these people in excess of £60,000 per year with additional benefits in the form of loosely regulated tax payer funded expenses, and it seems short of attacking their colleagues in a pub while drunk, they are not held accountable for their workplace behaviours in the 5 years they are elected to parliament.
What kind of example does this set to younger generations? What kind of example does this set to marginalised groups? How can mature adults, deemed ‘wise’ enough to represent tens or hundreds of thousands of British citizens, demand respect and good behaviour from society when they are unable to publicly perform in the same manner themselves?
The intimidating and bullying nature of debates must stop.
If I can just highlight for a moment, the definition of debate from The Free Dictionary:-
v. de·bat·ed, de·bat·ing, de·bates
1. To consider something; deliberate.
2. To engage in argument by discussing opposing points.
3. To engage in a formal discussion or argument.
4. Obsolete To fight or quarrel.
Please note that in the above definition, there is no reference to insult, intimidate or bullying. In fact, given the nature of something like Prime Ministers questions, number 2 should be particularly fitting. Also worth highlighting is the obsolete nature of the 4th use, to fight or quarrel. Every week at Prime Ministers questions we see fighting or quarrelling, rarely do we hear an answer even remotely relevant to the question.
Nobody is against highlighting opposing viewpoints, indeed we welcome it. It is important for the public to understand all opinions within the discussion to know how they feel about the topic at hand. Sadly, it is a rare occasion where in the House of Commons, Members of Parliament actually present their own viewpoint, instead choosing to belittle those of opposition parties, more often than not, choosing to belittle the MP presenting the opposing viewpoint instead of the view itself. And while most of us were raised to allow others to air their opinion, or to take their turn at talking, it seems this courtesy is ignored by our professional representatives.
This is not acceptable behaviour. It humiliates the United Kingdom’s political processes and makes our nations leaders look more at home participating in a chimpanzee’s tea party than important national debates. This approach to running a country is no longer acceptable in a modern, allegedly equal and progressive society. The House of Commons in its current form, with the behaviour of its current members is not fit for purpose in 21st century Britain. What are you going to do about it?