Watching a social media clip this morning from the chamber of the House of Commons, and in fact thinking about the whole Brexit return to mini empire project itself, I am reminded of a TV programme I loathed as a child (and you’ll have to be of a certain age to remember it) “The Good Old Days”.
For those who are too young to have seen it, and those who have happily blotted it out of their memory, this was a weekly light entertainment offering, from the BBC of course, which tried to reincarnate the days of Victorian/ Edwardian music hall for a second half of the twentieth century viewing public . The audience and on stage turns were all dressed up in period costumes, men with the big dodgy moustaches, top hats and tails, and chirped songs about strolling along on a sunny afternoon in Regents Park whilst Campbell puts down the Sepoys for the glory of the Empire. A sentimental celebration of a past which never actually existed, it was truly dreadful. A harking back to time of Britain’s perceived greatness, which should have been well and truly left there.
Looking at the particular media clip of Westminster I was watching it came across as very similar to the Good Old days in many respects. Wee John Bercow, the Speaker, for example, sitting atop his lofty perch, obviously loving the attention, the limelight, is very similar to the host of the show, Leonard Sachs. Whilst Sachs banged a gavel to get attention before treating the audience to examples of his extensive command of the English language, Bercow hollers the requisite “Order, Order”, before chucking in to the mix phrases of luxuriant words of many letters, when perhaps a simple one will do, for entertainment, jollying the proceeding along, herding the guffawing benches of dandies, the self-entitled and the hereditary rich through another dull session of government between luncheon and a late dinner at the club. It helps pass the time.
It is showmanship, in the spirit of tradition. It is parliamentary, keeping up the standards that are expected. Maintaining and exploiting power has been done this way for centuries, and must be protected, say those doing the exploiting, but is it democratic government?
Coming on to the media clip itself, having watched the other day as a session in the Commons chamber turned to farce as copies of the government’s Brexit white paper were sent flying through the air towards the various benches in response to comments from opposition parties that they hadn’t actually seen it before debating its content, it didn’t really surprise me that much when a scenario unfolded which demonstrates the inefficiency, inadequacy and often farcical nature of how the business of Westminster is conducted.
An amendment which had been proposed by the SNP, and had already been accepted by the government, and therefore was expected to pass through on the nod, came up for a vote. Wee John the redoubtable, controller of the rambunctious, proselytizer of the ancient ways of the House, and all round advocate of sesquipedalian fetishism, called the vote. As expected the majority Scottish contingent shouted “Aye”. However the gin soaked owners of country houses and hedge fund accounts in Bermuda across the chamber, upon hearing this, automatically knee-jerked into giggling cat-calls of “No, No “ even though their leaders had already agreed to allow the vote to pass, (which wee John then had to remind them about in his eloquent but longwinded way).
You really do get the idea that if icebergs starting floating up the Thames and the SNP proposed a motion that the Commons janny switches all the lights off in the toilets before he or she goes home every night for the good of the planet they’d still vote against it, just for the sake of it. That’s not government for grownups.
Contrast Holyrood, where a vote can happen with the press of a button, with Westminster, where it can take endless time for government flunkies to run about counting and recording the names of bands of wandering politicians milling around a division lobby wondering what’s on the menu at Marcel’s in Knightsbridge this evening. It’s an archaic system of rules and tradition from the past.
When you look at the advances and progress governments in places like Iceland, Norway and Denmark have made as small northern European countries in the 21st century Westminster’s style of government by patronising imposition, a millstone around our necks which is holding us back, should certainly not be in Scotland’s future. It simply doesn’t work for us. It works for those that maintain the structures of the past created to maintain power, and only for them.
Scotland will be so much better off when it returns to its rightful state as an independent nation.