I wholly endorse the outrage over Jeremy Corbyn calling the PM a ‘stupid woman’. There is an unpleasant hint of misogyny about it and it’s the sort of language- and abuse - which sours out Parliamentary discourse. However, did it really justify the massive outpouring of Parliamentary anger spreading over more than an hour, and covering pages of newsprint the next day? Why is Ken Clarke calling her ‘a bloody difficult woman’ so much more acceptable? And why was there so much less when, it is alleged, Mr Speaker said something very similar to Andrea Leadsom?
Quite a lot of it was about Mr Bercow himself and his apparently biased way of handling it all. For once I found myself totally in accord with Anna Soubry. But I also think it was a symptom of something much deeper. Anger, antipathy and bitterness after the most difficult year in recent political history. Frustration that no-one seems able to find a solution; exhaustion at arguing the case. The tensions and stresses of the last few weeks seemed to boil over into seething anger of a kind I had not seen in my 21 years as your MP.
Well it won’t do. Our Parliament is the envy of the world- and its model- because historically we have been able to discuss and agree upon the most difficult and intractable of problems. Parliamentary process and protocols- using the third person, using people’s constituency name to identify them, maintaining the courtesies albeit occasionally through gritted teeth. These are the things which allowed reasoned debate over world wars, general strikes, famine, poverty, and so much else. By observing the niceties, the courtesies, the protocols of Parliamentary debate, we have always avoided the kind of unpleasant bitterness and anger which now seems close to the surface.
So as we break up for Christmas, and as we face another helter-skelter, passion-filled year in 2019, I hope that my colleagues will take something of a lesson from the Christmas story of peace and goodwill even amongst the census, the murder of the first-born and so much other Biblical chaos and uncertainty. I’m planning a good deal of sleep and contemplation amongst the tinsel and Christmas cheer, and hope that some good old Rest and Recuperation at home will restore my spirits and determination to try to do the right thing in the New Year.
For now, I simply wish you all a peaceful New Year.