THE BLOG

Honourable Members or a Dishonourable Rabble

24/02/2014 11:34 GMT | Updated 23/04/2014 10:59 BST

MP behaviour during Prime Ministers Questions has been thrown into question this week after Speaker John Bercow called for party leaders to stamp out the "yobbery and public school twittishness". Far from making "politics exciting", as Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg suggests, MP behaviour in parliament is an advert for disillusionment.

Back in 2010 I spoke to a former MP about the unsavoury culture in the Houses of Commons. They recalled how one member would regularly make farm yard animal noises whilst opposition members spoke. More concerningly, they identified how some senior MPs would purposefully hold conversations, and stop listening, exclusively while their female colleagues spoke.

As despairing as these claims may be, they are hardly surprising. We hear this kind of behaviour, week in week out, at PMQs. Speakers can barely say a word without being interrupted, or having gossiping conversations going on around them. John Bercow has no control over the house - or zoo - despite his rather superficial attempts to rein it in.

Ultimately it demonstrates a serious lack of respect. Not only for their fellow honourable members but for you and me, the people whose lives they are playing with.

Hearing the Conservative Party cheer joyfully when benefit cuts are made and Labour gloat when a government plan fails, does not make politics more exciting. It makes politics repelling. It's almost as if they forget that, whilst they are behaving like this, people are losing jobs, homes, or vital support systems.

I consider myself to be politically engaged but I find it difficult to sit through five minutes of PMQs without despairing at the behaviour of our country's leaders. I suppose you might say that I am politically engaged, despite politicians. When our decision makers act like they are something in between hyperactive children in a nursery and animals in a pen, how are people supposed to have faith in our political system? Are we supposed to be engaged when governing is a joke to our MPs?

Research by the Hansard Society confirms that I'm not the only one who is turned off by this behaviour. They found that only 12% felt "proud of our parliament" after watching PMQs and that the some of the most common descriptions for the event are "childish", "Noisy" and "pointless". This begs the question, why haven't they done anything about it?

Plenty of political leaders have called for something to be done about the culture in parliament. Ed Miliband, David Cameron and former Lib Dem leader, Menzies Campbell, have all called for PMQs to be calmed down. They recognised the frankly repulsive tone of the event but, at the end of the day, nobody's willing to do anything about it.

Realistically, I can't see how this anti-social culture will change without real action being taken to teach MPs some respect for each other and for us. It seems to be too much engrained in parliamentary culture for it to phase out.

If MPs can't be trusted to behave like adults, maybe we should take a leaf out of Supernanny's book. Giving MPs a time out for bad behaviour might just be the only way we can get them to play nicely, and learn to respect others.