Parliament – just a playground with a bit of pomp and ceremony

What do you get when you cross football hooligans with toffs?

MPs debating in the House of Commons.

I won’t be pursuing a career as a Christmas cracker joke writer anytime soon, but who needs jokes when our political establishment is the biggest one out there?

This isn’t going to be my hot take on Brexit. Most of us are sick and tired of the subject and only wish this shitshow would come to some sort of conclusion, so we can maybe start focusing our attention on things like our ailing NHS, homelessness going through the roof and inequality running rampant. That being said, Brexit might be the levelling factor we need – who cares whether you went to a state or private school when we’re fighting over the last tin of rat meat?

At a time we really, really need our political representatives to inspire some semblance of reassurance, watching the drama unfold in the House of Commons this week only left most of us feeling as though the lunatics are running the asylum. Like an impatient fast food worker on the brink of a meltdown, the Speaker’s cries of “Order! Order!” bellowed through the air among the whoops, jeers, boos, mud-slinging and point scoring.

For me, watching these debates only serves to reinforce a sense of disconnection between the halls of power and the world the rest of us occupies. The sea of suits, pomp and ceremony, archaic and bizarre rules in the midst of behaviour that wouldn’t be out of place at a football match is a strange juxtaposition to behold.

If Parliament is meant to be any kind of example of how we should behave in a functional society, surely this aint it?

Given the seemingly lax approach to basic manners on display, I thought it would be worth looking into what the rules of behaviour are.

While you can act like a chimpanzee at feeding time in many respects, here are some of the things you definitely must not do in Parliament:

DO NOT

… use anyone’s names
Hence their use of ‘the honourable member for…’, ‘my honourable friend’, ‘the honourable gentleman/lady’. The honourable twats.

… talk to anyone except the Speaker
MPs are only allowed to speak to one person in the House of Commons: the Speaker. Nobody else is ever directly addressed (passive aggressiveness at its finest).

… take photos
No one is allowed to take photos or shoot videos in the chamber, apart from the fixed TV cameras we’re used to. No upskirting allowed then, much to Christopher Chope’s dismay.

… call someone a liar
What do you call a politician who lies? A politician.

… call someone a hypocrite
How can you be a hypocrite when a different rulebook applies to you?

… use any of these insults that normal people definitely still use on a daily basis in 2019
Pipsqueak, coward, git, guttersnipe, bag of wind, blatherskite, dim-witted saboteur, hooligan, rat, swine, Canadian Mussolini, stoolpigeon, ignoramus and traitor.

Presumably that means c*** is totally kosher.

… wear a T-shirt
Men are expected to wear a shirt and tie, while women are expected to dress in business-like clothing. MP’s breaching these rules won’t be barred from entering the chamber, but tend not to ‘catch the eye’ of the Speaker to participate in debates.

Nothing gets the Speaker’s juices flowing like a good Windsor collar.

… wear armour in the chamber
No swords allowed either. Kindly leave them in the knife amnesty bin outside.

… speak in Welsh
English only, you provincial peasants!

I’m being facetious in a vain attempt to channel my despair and disillusion. Not all politicians are self-interested charlatans putting their personal ambition or party before country. Not all politicians are caricaturesque posh people, completely out-of-touch with the lives of plebs. Not all politicians possess the integrity of Judas Iscariot.

Not all, but still too many.

We desperately need to foster an environment that encourages more people to want to engage in the political process; to see themselves reflected in those pews, or sat in them. We wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in if large swathes of the population hadn’t felt completely isolated from our political system. Parliament need not feel like a strange parallel universe of privilege deserving of David Attenborough’s narration.

At the very least, I have a dream that one day I’ll turn on my TV to see debates conducted in a way that seems fit for 2019, not 1902.

(And far fewer privileged white men in suits)

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