Thinking back to a warm June afternoon in London 2 years ago, sat in the glass-sealed spectators box, the transparent wall separating me from the most powerful men and women in the country may as well not have been there. I watched as suited up men and professional looking women that are regularly seen on the news filed in to the House of Commons, heads held high, with an almost majestic conduct. Excited, inspired and awe struck, I looked down at these MPs, our political representatives and could think of nothing other than how much I wanted to one day be in their position. Discussing pressing issues and deciding on how tackle these issues and improve the lives of people in our society.
However, instead of structured debate and diplomatic discussion, Prime Minster’s Questions quickly turned into something analogous to petty argument in a primary school playground. Surrounding the key issues were trivial jibes and constant jeering. These MPs, that are often held in such high esteem, with the majority of front benchers being prestigious Oxbridge graduates, were behaving like children. These PMQ sessions are very often televised and shown on the BBC Parliament channel, and whilst a key feature of PMQs is to scrutinise the actions of other opposition MPs, ironically people who tune into PMQs are starting to scrutinise MPs for their unprofessional behaviour.
Narked parents on Mumsnet have said that this behaviour damages the reputation of Parliament, saying that this behaviour is archaically out of date and unprofessional, with others describing the politicians as “ambitious, connected, ruthless, rich and male”, arguing that the behaviour they display adds to the problem of these politicians being completely unrelatable to, and out of touch with, the average joe. It could be interpreted that the people who represent us are making a mockery of democracy. As one Mumsnet user put it;
Justine Roberts, CEO of Mumsnet, is calling for a petition to reform the way PMQs are carried out bore the 2015 General Election. She argues that this can be done, as in 1997 Tony Blair replaced the two weekly 15 minute sessions with one half an hour session on Wednesdays. She is upholding proposals made by The Hansard Society for a new, engaging way to conduct PMQs in order to rebuild trust in politics and politicians. This could include introducing rapid-fire Question and Answers, more Open Questions in order to avoid scripted pre-prepared answers, taking questions directly from constituents through social media, and penalties for MPs who behave unprofessionally. Britain is one of the world’s oldest Parliamentary democracies, and Justine Roberts wants the next generation to be proud of their Parliament and eager to engage with their representatives. She, along with other Mumsnet users, believe that a reform to PMQ and the way politicians can behave will encourage the younger generation to vote and eliminate political disengagement.
While I very much agree with these sentiments, especially as I have observed this sort of behaviour first hand, I am pleased to say this did not deter me from wanting to go into politics in future, particularly if this forward-facing reform is implemented!