EDITOR'S CHAIR: People are so tired of 'Punch and Judy' politics

South Wales Argus: 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 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.

Comments (3)

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10:45am Thu 20 Feb 14

Abertillery29 says...

This article should be sent to every politician in the land from Town Councillors to the Lords. We could then only hope that they could understand it and act upon it. I for one am fed up with the buffoons at all levels.
This article should be sent to every politician in the land from Town Councillors to the Lords. We could then only hope that they could understand it and act upon it. I for one am fed up with the buffoons at all levels. Abertillery29

1:18pm Thu 20 Feb 14

Katie Re-Registered says...

I think that the people who really dominate the course of politics is the small junta of media barons. In a not too dissimilar way to a small clique of military officers in a banana republic, the behaviour of every political leader seems to belie the basic fact that they know that they cannot afford to lose the media barons' support. The print media and news channels have full power to virtually make up the news by under-reporting, mis-reporting or even non-reporting of events, willfully presenting a distorted picture to the masses purely in the service of advancing the vested interests and agendas of a handful of extremely wealthy (mostly) males and their mates. Similarly, groups of powerful corporate lobbyists (often simultaneously media barons or the friends of) who also bring disproportionate weight to bear on a system which although nominally 'democratic' has very little to do with the popular will of the majority of people. The petty-minded squabbles of bland suits are but just one symptom of the decay of the democratic system which has caused Jo/e Public to now feel more disillusioned, cynical and disengaged from the mainstream political chess game than ever.
I think that the people who really dominate the course of politics is the small junta of media barons. In a not too dissimilar way to a small clique of military officers in a banana republic, the behaviour of every political leader seems to belie the basic fact that they know that they cannot afford to lose the media barons' support. The print media and news channels have full power to virtually make up the news by under-reporting, mis-reporting or even non-reporting of events, willfully presenting a distorted picture to the masses purely in the service of advancing the vested interests and agendas of a handful of extremely wealthy (mostly) males and their mates. Similarly, groups of powerful corporate lobbyists (often simultaneously media barons or the friends of) who also bring disproportionate weight to bear on a system which although nominally 'democratic' has very little to do with the popular will of the majority of people. The petty-minded squabbles of bland suits are but just one symptom of the decay of the democratic system which has caused Jo/e Public to now feel more disillusioned, cynical and disengaged from the mainstream political chess game than ever. Katie Re-Registered

11:41am Fri 21 Feb 14

varteg1 says...

QUOTE....


......."People want to see the people they elect making a positive difference to their lives, particularly in these tough economic times"......


It is those who have been elected who have caused 'these tough economic times'

Failed leadership, with far too much emphasis on pandering to their own particular sector allegiance has led us into very troubled waters.,

When the politicians see how trends are forming, it is, or should be, their remit to put a brake on the oncoming event,

That is why we get so called bubbles in the housing market,

When the 'buy your own' notion became the mantra of the day, measures were necessary to curb excessive profiteering, and the only way to do that was to tax profits that went beyond rationality. Instead of which politicians were simply too involved in making money out of it, they jumped on the cash cow bandwagon, either through their shareholdings, or by dabbling in the housing boom years, themselves. Much of the problems to day came directly out of their failure to put the brakes on by statutory means, too cool the overheating.
Thankfully some of us saw it coming and took evasive steps to avoid being hurt.

We are well past the time when politicians should have been taken to task, and pour political process is to easy a beast to afford corrupt practice to generate and be fostered, Take Bl;air and Thatcher for example, they came into the sphere of parliament with hardly a bean between them., they soon corrected that, and when leaving parliament substantially better of than when entering it, there is no way in this world their wealth could be accounted for mere on their parliamentary wages alone
Maybe if the Speaker was him/her self and honest person, and was given the pwoers to do it, he/she would drive out such people by whatever means at his/her disposal, but I for one will not be holding my breath in expectation of it happening soon...or ever.... under the present system
QUOTE.... ......."People want to see the people they elect making a positive difference to their lives, particularly in these tough economic times"...... It is those who have been elected who have caused 'these tough economic times' Failed leadership, with far too much emphasis on pandering to their own particular sector allegiance has led us into very troubled waters., When the politicians see how trends are forming, it is, or should be, their remit to put a brake on the oncoming event, That is why we get so called bubbles in the housing market, When the 'buy your own' notion became the mantra of the day, measures were necessary to curb excessive profiteering, and the only way to do that was to tax profits that went beyond rationality. Instead of which politicians were simply too involved in making money out of it, they jumped on the cash cow bandwagon, either through their shareholdings, or by dabbling in the housing boom years, themselves. Much of the problems to day came directly out of their failure to put the brakes on by statutory means, too cool the overheating. Thankfully some of us saw it coming and took evasive steps to avoid being hurt. We are well past the time when politicians should have been taken to task, and pour political process is to easy a beast to afford corrupt practice to generate and be fostered, Take Bl;air and Thatcher for example, they came into the sphere of parliament with hardly a bean between them., they soon corrected that, and when leaving parliament substantially better of than when entering it, there is no way in this world their wealth could be accounted for mere on their parliamentary wages alone Maybe if the Speaker was him/her self and honest person, and was given the pwoers to do it, he/she would drive out such people by whatever means at his/her disposal, but I for one will not be holding my breath in expectation of it happening soon...or ever.... under the present system varteg1

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