Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Parliamentary dirty secret

The loud "Hear, hear" and the opposing "Shame, shame" calls in the UK's House of Commons have become common knowledge since the first live radio broadcast in 1978. Ten years later, television brought the sometimes rowdy scene to more people (although the fixed cameras didn't often allow viewers to identify the loud rowdies).

One comparative politics textbook does note that sessions begin late in the day and that there are several members' bars in Westminster that open before sessions of Commons commence.

It took the report of a visiting Canadian parliamentarian to bring that connection into wider circulation.

[BTW, if you want to use this article with younger students, be aware that the offending MP is quoted as using a 'not safe for classroom' epithet.]

Head-butts and flying fists break out at Britain’s House of Commons
Canada’s Speaker of the House Andrew Scheer… got a taste of the… world of Britain’s parliament, as he reportedly found himself in the midst of an MP fistfight.

According to British newspapers, Mr. Scheer was part of a Canadian delegation invited to visit Strangers, one of several drinking establishments inside the House of Commons…

There, according to reports, he was one of dozens of visitors who witnessed a startling scene as Eric Joyce, a Labour MP, went on a violent rampage against Tory MPs and was arrested.

Mr. Joyce, the member for Falkirk, reportedly began dancing erratically [and] shouting…

He then head-butted Stuart Andrew, the Tory MP for Pudsey, punched a few more people, and head-butted the MP again…

It took five security officers to calm the over-excited MP, according to the Evening Standard. He was arrested on suspicion of assault and on Thursday morning was suspended from the Labour caucus. The British Speaker of the House, John Bercow, told reporters he would take the incident “very seriously.”

Heavy drinking is considered a serious problem in Britain’s Parliament. There are bars adjoining the Commons and Lords chambers which are packed before and after sittings; it is widely reported that some MPs have numerous drinks before attending sittings – even in the morning. Stories about drunken brawls and misbehaviour among parliamentarians abound…

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At 8:13 AM, Blogger Ken Wedding said...

Follow up to February's to do.

Fewer top-ups for MPs, Commons bar staff told

"Commons staff are being told to cut down on topping up MPs' glasses at receptions in an effort to encourage 'responsible alcohol use'.

They are also to get more training on how to refuse to serve MPs considered to have had too much to drink…"


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