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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Those poor, over-sensitive MPs

Isabel Hardman's piece in the Telegraph on the gnashing and wailing of teeth in the House of Commons because a documentary film crew has been allowed into the inner sanctums would be astonishing if it were not for the fact that it records a rather archaic mind-set on the part of MPs.

She says that there has been an almighty row, MPs have been close to tears, and voices have been raised in the committee corridor because the BBC is filming a documentary, Inside the House of Commons:

This great constitutional outrage, opening up the building housing our elected representatives, has ruffled some feathers. Veteran film-maker Michael Cockerell has been touring the Palace of Westminster with a camera crew for the four-part series. It’s the first time our lawmakers have been filmed at work in this way for 30 years, and Mr Cockerell has been trying to persuade parliamentarians to let him in since 2008. Now he’s here, and not everyone likes it.

The latest confrontation over the programme came in Monday’s meeting of the Commons Administration Committee, which approves Mr Cockerell’s applications to film in certain parts of the building. Members present say that whenever a new request comes through, “everyone gets very upset and needs calming down”. This week, they considered whether or not the cameras could follow MPs as they walk through the division lobbies to vote. But committee members worried that the intrusions had already gone far enough. When they realised that they would be filmed selecting their number for the Private Members’ Bill ballot, one MP was apparently “close to tears”.

All this panic and hand-wringing would not be out of place in an old people’s home after a change to the meals-on-wheels service, but these are supposed to be our sober and public-spirited MPs. What have they got to hide?

I think that is a valid question, after all, as Ms Hardman points out, Parliament does not belong to the MPs, it belongs to us. She adds that the documentary is an opportunity for MPs to show the reality of political life: the long hours, the tedious committees, the sad constituency cases.

They really need to get over themselves and join the 21st Century.

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