Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

JUST over [...]

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

JUST over [...]

Article excerpt

Byline: COLUMNIST PAUL LINFORD

JUST over a year ago, the Hansard Society published a report entitled 'Tuned in or Turned off?' which looked in detail at public attitudes to Parliament, and to Prime Minister's Questions in particular.

It concluded that while the public recognised Parliament's "essential" role at the heart of our democracy, it was "deeply dissatisfied" with the culture and conduct of politics, with PMQs described as "a significant contributory factor in this disenchantment."

"The public dislike the noise, the point-scoring and the perceived failure to answer the questions. The atmosphere confuses viewers and makes them feel uncomfortable - on occasion it is perceived to border on bullying," said the thank-tank's report.

Significantly, it revealed that many people saw the House of Commons through the prism of Prime Minister's Questions and assumed that was how Parliament worked all the time.

Furthermore, the report revealed something of a North-South divide in attitudes, with respondents in the North and Scotland notably less positive about the Mother of Parliaments than their London and South East counterparts.

"On a range of core political engagement indicators, respondents in London have been noticeably more positive than those in other regions over the course of the last few years, closely followed by people from the South East, the South West and the East of England," said the report.

"From the Midlands, Wales and north to Scotland, attitudes towards politics have been markedly worse."

On the specific question 'How satisfied are you with the system of government in the UK?" more than 40% of respondents in the North East gave a negative satisfaction rating.

So what is the relevance of all this to present day political events? And why dredge up a year-old report as the subjectmatter for this week's column? Well, because this week's PMQs encounter between Prime Minister David Cameron and Labour leader Ed Miliband surely represented a new nadir in the history of this already-tarnished parliamentary institution.

Mr Cameron's over-the-top description of his opponent as "despicable" for having failed to rule out a coalition between Labour and the SNP really ought to have qualified as unparliamentary language in my book. …

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