(Excellent stuff imho. I didn’t ask for permission to cross-post – hope that’s OK, Mr Mambo -JD)
As a fan of righteous violence I was actually quite amused to hear that Labour MP Eric Joyce had chinned a couple of Tory MPs this week. I’m sure they probably deserved it and the fact that he appears to have actually dropped the nut on one of them is actually hilarious.
However I then reflected that there is a serious side to this. Reading the account in the Telegraph (which may or may not be accurate of course) and learning a bit more about his recent history (he spent the night in a police cell in 2010 for drink driving) he seems like a man with a drink problem. Which isn’t that funny really. The photo I copied above is that of man who looks very different to the fresh faced MP of a few years ago. Something appears to have gone very wrong.
It’s difficult to feel too much sympathy for a man with such outrageous yearly expenses claims but one does get the feeling that his life is spiralling out of control. He has apparently just broken up with his wife and things are looking very messy.
Sadly the boozing culture and the cross-party chumminess that seems to induce is part and parcel of the British Houses of Parliament. Whilst I have no objection to people enjoying a tipple it does seem it has gone too far and Parliament is treated like a club. MPs appear to have easy access to lots of cheap and free booze when discharging their various responsibilities and some people obviously can’t cope with it. Joyce, it would appear, is one of them.
The collegiate ‘club’ atmosphere in the Commons and Lords is one that bothers me very much. There is often a lot of talk of British politics being too ‘adversarial’ but I take the opposite view. The disagreements are invariably shrill but never over matters of serious principle. Considering the stakes they should hate each other. It worries me more when they don’t. It should be a violent clash of ideologies and worldviews. That it isn’t is largely due to Labour’s failings over the years and eagerness to adapt to the status quo. One actually can’t take issue with Joyce’s drunken statement that there are ‘too many Tories’ in the House but such brainless tribalism isn’t enough I’m afraid.
Personally I think they should close the bar. It may sound radical and authoritarian but in how many other workplaces would such a state of affairs be tolerated? The bar that used to be open at the hospital I work at has been shut for years. MPs, when it comes to expenses, pensions and boozing seem to operate by a different set of rules to the rest of us. There is clearly a conceit, that they often fail to veil convincingly, that they are special and deserve to be treated differently and that they could all be earning more money in the private sector.
Maybe some MPs need to remember what they are paid handsomely to do and that it is a privilege for them (not us) to be our elected representatives. And if they do think they can earn more elsewhere, then piss off and do it. They are a bunch of faceless mediocrities for the most part anyway.
And finally I think we would be best not to sneer and laugh at Joyce too much. He sounds like he needs help rather than mockery. Whether this will finish his political career or not we shall have to see, but I have an uneasy premonition of him going the way of that other drink-soaked politician, Charles Kennedy, and fading into embarrassing irrelevance or even worse. Whilst Joyce is no great shakes as a parliamentarian, it would be a tragic fall from grace on a purely human level.