Thursday, 27 November 2014

Order! Order!

I went to Parliament yesterday for a meeting. No, DC is not suddenly seeking my views on how to win over an increasingly disenfranchised electorate. It was a work thing involving a company who are a Crown supplier and so were able to get sponsorship from an MP to hold their meeting there.

After the meeting had finished, I thought, "Well, how often am I going to be here? Might as well have a look around." After nearly bumping into David Blunkett, I ended up in the queue to sit in the Commons public gallery. Now Wednesday is Opposition Day in the Commons, which means the subjects debated are chosen by the Opposition. The debate I watched was on the performance of the economy, proposed by, amongst others, Edwards Miliband and Balls (though neither put in an appearance, as far as I can tell). In fact, the debate was opened by the Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Chris Leslie. The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, Priti Patel, responded on behalf of the Government. So no Osborne either.

Anyway, if you're interested you can watch the debate here and of course the whole thing is written up in Hansard.

So what observations can I add? Well, I joined the debate partway through, by which time the already sparse population of MPs had thinned still further. A good proportion (at least a fifth) of those that remained were on their mobile phones the whole time. I can't be sure (because you're not allowed to take binoculars into the public gallery) but from the way they were mostly stabbing and swiping at the screen, I'd guess that most of them were either checking email or tweeting. In my view, that's pretty slack at best, and disrespectful to those speaking, not to mention those they represent.

Oh, and whilst MPs can batter away at their mobiles in the Commons, the public have to leave their phones outside the gallery. Odd.

What else? Parliament is full of flat-screen TVs. They come in pairs, one with a green screen, one with a red screen. These detail what is going on at that moment in the Commons and Lords respectively. And in the Commons itself, more flat-screens display who is speaking and their constituency, whilst still more display the time and a countdown timer for the speeches (yesterday there was a six minute limit in force on back-bencher speeches).

What I can also tell you is that the whole experience left me wishing I'd been more politically involved as a younger man, because it's probably a bit late now to start trying to be an MP, not least because I'd have to align myself with a mainstream political party, none of which fits me very well.

And if you're concerned that all the above might lead to this blog becoming more political... well, it might. Certainly I've been having internal monologues for some time along the lines of "what I'd do if I ran the country?" And what's that if not a manifesto? But rest assured, I'll try to keep it in check. You might get the manifesto, sometime, but you'll still get the observations, the TV/film/book reviews, the music and the Clandestine Classics. It's just that if I ever enter the world of politics, at any level, you can probably expect to read about it...

P.S. If you can be bothered with going through the security checks, Parliament has a nice café with free wi-fi too.

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