As an educator I understand the value of argument and debate as a learning tool. “If you cannot influence other people, then you will always be under their influence!” is one of my own favourite sayings. During debate sessions in my classroom however I insist and police some basic rules. These include respect, tolerance and active listening. One thing we are taught at an early age is that we can’t talk and listen at the same time!
In Parliament the Speaker of the Commons John Bercow has become more and more exasperated by a decline in debating standards, especially during PMQs (Prime Minister’s Questions). He recently and ironically proposed a scholastic punishment for Education Secretary Michael Gove, whom he accused of shouting across the Commons chamber.
“Order”, the Speaker shouted above the swell of noise. “Mr Gove, you really are a very over-excitable individual. You need to write out a thousand times: ‘I will behave myself at Prime Minister’s Questions.'”
Mr Bercow has now formally written to the leaders of the three main parties, David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg, asking them to work out a way to bring order and decorum to the weekly Q&A session.
This is not a recent issue though, way back in April 1978, a schoolteacher from Birmingham wrote to The Times to share her anger at the behaviour of MPs, as she heard on her radio. Miss Gillian Lloyd wrote in her letter: “Sir, I teach a class of 11-year-olds. We try to learn (among other things) mutual tolerance, patience and good manners. Returning from school today I listened to the [parliamentary] speeches and found, as jeer and interruption followed one on another, my temper rising at such a poor example of manners and self-control. “If the culprits were in my class they would have a detention.”
I’m with President Obama of the USA on this one, He once said; “You can disagree without being disagreeable!” Hear hear I bellow in total agreement.
I do moan about the conduct of politicians a lot in my blogs but that doesn’t mean I am anti politics. I am just frustrated that these elected pillars of our society seem to focus more on making each other look stupid and incompetent rather than doing what’s right for the country.
It is ultimately down to the leaders of the political parties, David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg to set the example for their people to follow. Perhaps they would like some training from Management Training & Development in the art of ‘responding’ rather than ‘reacting’ to criticism!