So I was sat in the ENT clinic of Barts Hospital (long, not very interesting story) waiting for a hearing test. (Conclusion: I can hear!) And as seems to be the case with EVERY hospital clinic in London now, there was a flat screen TV turned up far too high. In surgical outpatients, flatscreen TVs seem perpetually tuned to either Countdown or programmes dedicated to the theme of selling bits of old junk in order to finance a hoilday in Thailand. In outpatients at St. Thomas’ Hospital, the TV seems to be tuned, rather alarmingly, to a loop of a film called Green for Danger in which, in case you weren’t feeling nervous enough, the medical staff of a wartime hospital attempt to murder their patients. However, at Barts Hospital, the ENT TV was tuned to BBC Parliament, a channel no one really watches who isn’t in the business of politics, as it is usually about as dry as burnt rice cakes, but, as it was either watch the TV or read a birdwatching magazine, I watched.
The MPs were debating energy prices. As probably everyone now knows and is (furiously) adjusted to, every winter without fail, the energy companies in the UK raise their prices. Which would be okay, in the sense that inflation happens, prices go up etc… but then it’s not okay, because if you look at the profits of the energy companies, the realisation quickly dawns that this isn’t conforming to inflation, but rather, exploitation. And worse… semi-cartel exploitation, in which every single energy company, without fail, every single winter seems to go ‘oh look, usage is about to increase as the weather gets cold… let’s up our costs accordingly!’
This isn’t what my rant is about.
What my rant is about, is this:
Our MPs are appalling.
I sat watching this debate, and was genuinely ashamed. The opposition asked a vaguely valid question… and rather than answer it, the government replied, as they always do, with an opening remark of ‘the opposition had 13 years in power to fix this, why didn’t they?’ This led to more debate about who was to blame, about whether the government had a plan, whether the government felt itself suitable to have a plan, whether the government could call itself a governmen, whether the opposition could live with itself asking such questions after its terrible legacy… and so on and so forth… but no where, not once, did anyone actually say anything that mattered or suggest a single viable idea for actually dealing with the question under debate.
Getting home, I watched a bit more of BBC Parliament in horror, and yes, the madness continues. There’s no actual debating going on. There’s no criss-cross of ideas, but rather, a bunch of posh, infantile, political point-scorers stand and snipe at each other. And there’s no sniping quite as petty and bitter as that snipe which opens with the words, “As the honourable gentleman knows, Mr Speaker…”
Where’s the backbone of our leaders? Where’s integrity? Where intelligence, where open-mindedness, where a sense of being in it for the rest of us? Watching the parliament at work is like watching two primary schools bicker about who gets more time in the playground, and that’s it! And worse, worse, when our leaders do get an idea in their heads, it seems to be fuelled by ideology and the desire to score points than by actual informed conversation and decision making. And the parties are all as bad as each other. Why is this? Is there a fundamental flaw in our democracy? In those who want to be politicians? In the parties? In the media? In us?
That said, if I’m worried about UK politicians, I, along with most of the rest of the world, once again look to America to be reminded that my terror of ideology is as nothing. Come on Obama. You were elected because you spoke with passion and looked like you had a few braincells to rub together… dear god let’s hope you can do it again…