If you were ever in any doubt about the disconnect between politics and people, have a look at today’s Autumn Statement in the House of Commons. Whichever way you vote, no matter how keenly you’re interested in the toings and froings of government, you will probably be dismayed by what you see.
The braying, from all sides.
The roaring, burbling, and murmuring.
The inability to let someone else speak without you shouting over them and interrupting them.
The juvenile roaring and yelling.
This is our parliament. These are the people we have elected to serve our interests, and they spend their lives wasting that opportunity by bellowing, growling and making animal noises at each other. They shout, they interrupt, they refuse to shut up, they act like a pack of chimps. No, not like a pack of chimps. More unruly, more vile, more deliberate, more malicious, more unpleasant. It’s an insult to animals to compare these people to animals.
I know for people who study The Westminster Village that this kind of stuff is the jovial badinage that makes The Mother of All Parliaments such a joy. These people are wrong. There is nothing charming, jolly, hilarious or quaint about this demeaning spectacle. This isn’t the marvellously quirky character of British democracy in action. It’s embarrassing. It’s shameful. It makes it look like a rowdy boys’ club – the growls, burbles and yells are overwhelmingly masculine, although men aren’t the only offenders – rather than a serious institution in which matters which affect people’s futures are discussed and debated.
There’s nothing wrong with passion or humour or – as ever, I hesitate to type this sickening word – banter in the right circumstances. When you’re talking about how your actions are going to affect thousands of lives it’s not the time to be treating it like Carry on Camping. Seriously. These are serious things. It’s not humourless to expect that serious things should be carried out with an appropriate level of gravitas – is it?
I think those people who are locked into the Westminster bubble don’t really get why people outside it see politics as something contemptible. What’s wrong with a lot of overgrown schoolboys braying and shouting at each other all afternoon? It’s all fun, isn’t it? No, it isn’t fun. It’s a mess. An embarrassing, infantile, pathetic, miserable mess which makes people hate MPs all the more than they already did.