A higher standard of debate

Recently, in the House of Commons, Mr David Cameron took Mr Jeremy Corbyn to task for his attire, imagining that Mr Cameron’s mother  would tell Mr Corbyn to put on a proper suit and do up his tie. During the same debate, Mr Johnson was told to tuck his shirt in. Now the Fashion Police will have something to say about suits in their next bulletin, and my contacts in that worthy organisation inform me that they would agree that shirts should be tucked in on formal occasions. However, all this frivolity is detracting from my point.


Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0

These remarks were made in what is certainly the most important, most high-profile debating chamber in the country. We have elected these people to run our country. We have put our lives, in many ways almost literally, in their hands. We are trusting them to keep us safe, prosperous and free. And yet, in this debating chamber, it is apparently acceptable to  make cheap criticisms of a political opponent’s clothing.

Please note that this is not a political viewpoint. It applies to all parties and extends far beyond cheap jibes about clothing. At times the standard of debate is reduced to that of baying abuse. Prime Minister’s Questions has often been the worst occasion. A quick search on Youtube will confirm this.

I watched much of the parliamentary debate on Syria, and was impressed with the courtesy on view and the standard of discussion, despite the opposing views. Surely this is what our leaders should be constantly aspiring to?

I am of course going to invoke the ‘poor example for children’ argument, not that many children are going to be aware of such debates. However this behaviour goes beyond just being a poor example for children, important as I think this point is. The House of Commons somehow sets the tone for debate in the country. Yes, it should be on occasions impassioned, and even adversarial. It should however be polite and courteous.


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