Why Parliament Must Drop These Silly Club-Like Rules; the Expenses Scandal Has Severely Damaged the Reputation of the House of Commons, and the MPs Who Work There. but It Has Also Provided a Much-Needed Opportunity to Do Away with Some of the Archaic Rituals That Have Left the Public Feeling Disconnected with Politics, Argues Julie Morgan MP
Byline: Julie Morgan
THE expenses scandal has now rumbled on at Westminster for many weeks, with each day seemingly bringing a new revelation.
People are understandably angry.
Perhaps the comment I have heard most often over this time has been: "How dare MPs call themselves Honourable Members when they act like this?" It's a very good question. Being elected doesn't suddenly make someone honourable if they were dishonourable before - it is simply a title, an honorific, and one of many in Parliament.
To most people, I am Julie Morgan, or just Julie.
In the House of Commons chamber, though, only the Speaker may call me by name (and it's my full name, at that), everyone else must call me "the Member for Cardiff North", "the Honourable Lady", or occasionally "the Honourable Lady, the Member for Cardiff North".
The same is true for every other MP.
What is more, we must never address each other as "you".
Indeed if an MP uses a turn of phrase as common as "As you know", they can be upbraided - the correct phrase is "As the House knows" or "As Honourable Members know".
If one MP wishes to refer to another, they cannot say their name and they cannot simply address them.
Therefore if they cannot remember which constituency the MP sits for, they have to receive whispered prompts and suggestions.
But there's still yet more to remember - if an MP is an officer in the Armed Forces, they can be referred to as "the Gallant Member" or "the Honourable and Gallant Member".
If they're a barrister they are "the Learned Member", and if they're a Privy Counsellor they're "the Right Honourable Member".
There are a myriad of other rules and conventions as well.
For example, we do not refer directly to the second chamber of Parliament by name.
It is never "the House of Lords".
Instead it is "the other place" or "another place".
But what does it matter? You might wonder why at a time when expenses have been abused - with duck houses, moats and helipads to name just a few of the more incredible claims - I am concentrating on something that seems so insignificant.
In my opinion, though, it is anything but trivial.
One of the reasons given in the press and by politicians for the expenses scandal is that we MPs have allowed ourselves to become divorced from the people we serve. …