EDITOR'S CHAIR: People are so tired of 'Punch and Judy' politics
File photo dated 15/05/13 of John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons, who has made a fresh appeal to party leaders to find ways to curb the "yobbery and public school twittishness" of their MPs at prime minister's question time. PRESS A
JOHN Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, is to be congratulated for writing to the main party leaders asking them to crack down on the 'yobbish' behaviour of some of their MPs, particularly during Prime Minister's Questions.
Much as I agree with Mr Bercow's view that the public are put off politics because of the childish behaviour of many in the Commons, I fear his intervention will have little effect.
We have heard promises before of an end to 'Punch and Judy' politics. They have never come to fruition, partly because MPs are cocooned in a Westminster bubble and have little understanding of what the public really think of them and partly because there are a significant number of MPs who are utterly out of touch with the real world and, frankly, a bit thick.
We have too many MPs who have never had a proper job, who move serenely from university to become parliamentary researchers or advisors, to the backbenches, to the Cabinet.
These people have absolutely no idea about what goes on in the real world in which their constituents live - and they have no understanding of the contempt a growing number of people have for them.
Low turnouts at elections are largely the fault of politicians. People are sick of their behaviour, sick of their broken promises, and sick of the way many put the party line before the views and needs of their constituents.
It is a serious issue. Research from the Hansard Society, which campaigns for parliamentary reform, shows the most common descriptions by the public of the behaviour of MPs at PMQs are "noisy", "childish", "over-the-top" and "pointless".
Sadly, too many MPs will simply ignore such research and then scratch their heads in puzzlement as election turnouts hit record lows.
For me, it is more worrying that some politicians at local government level seem to see the boorishness of some MPs as model behaviour.
When I meet local councillors they always get a straight message from me about how their activities will be covered by any newspaper I edit.
If they want to get involved in 'tit for tat' exchanges in the council chamber with opposition councillors then all well and good. But we won't report it.
I've long believed that the best thing that could happen to local government would be to rid it of party politics.
Across local government, there are some extraordinarily able councillors. Very rarely do they come from the same party.
That means that talented people who could make a real difference to the communities they serve are often stuck powerless on the opposition benches, while time-servers who can barely string a coherent sentence together get to make vital decisions that affect people's everyday lives.
This is not an attack on any particular political party. It is an attack on all of them.
I might be naive, but I am convinced that local government would work better if it was run by the most talented and able people - irrespective of their political allegiance.
People want to see the people they elect making a positive difference to their lives, particularly in these tough economic times.
At a local level, decisions should be taken that make that positive difference.
The reality is too many decisions and policies are made on the back of political dogma enforced by the party whip.
Unless that changes, my fear is the disengagement between politicians and the electorate will worsen until the relationship breaks down irretrievably.
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