Saturday 4 February 2012

Usage and abusage in parliament

Apparently David Cameron called Ed Miliband a hypocrite in parliament this week, but had to withdraw because you're not allowed to be so rude. This incident brought forth in the press the usual list of archaic insults ( eg stool-pigeon, guttersnipe, cad)which are still on the taboo list.

In my view the most amusing incident with arose out of this convention occurred when Jeremy Thorpe was leader of the Liberals and was overheard to mutter "Stupid bastard" whilst the then Prime Minister, Edward Heath, was speaking. The interjection was loud enough to generate immediate demands that Thorpe withdraw , but the Speaker ruled that in the parliamentary lexicon "bastard" was in fact regarded as a term of endearment. At once Jeremy leaped to his feet and said that if he had inadvertently used a term of endearment in respect of the prime minister he unhesitatingly withdrew.

This slick repartee appeals to political anoraks like me, and presumably to MPs themselves and to those who make a living by writing about parliament. But I doubt if it makes much of an impression on the general public. If anything, I suspect it makes the political process seem irrelevant to their real situation.

I should dearly like to see the rules of parliamentary question time altered so that notice is given of real questions and real answers can be given which enlighten us on the consequences of what the government is trying to do. This is especially true when many are losing or in fear of losing their jobs, homes and comfortable lifestyles to which we believe we've become entitled.

Serious discussion rather than clever debating antics are what is need to restore respect for the democratic process.

1 comment:

  1. Didn't Dizzy get away with calling Gladstone "a sophistical rhetorician inebriated by six pints of Top Totty?"