July 2012


Hearing on the radio this morning that the US Boy Scouts (well, the people in charge, I guess) have chosen to retain the ban on homosexuals being scouts or leaders, I have to say that despite the furore it inevitably caused among gay activists, there didn’t seem to me to be much choice, really. I mean, it makes as much sense to not have gay men in charge of boy scouts as it would to not have heterosexual men in charge of girl scouts. We should be able to distinguish homosexuality from paedophilia, but it seems we can’t.

Ditto, most people wouldn’t be happy about straight boys and girls sharing camping and toilet facilities, so homosexuality raises a thorny logistical problem. The armed forces solution of ‘Don’t ask’ hardly applies to hormonally challenged young people, so it’s not so different from the ‘marriage’ issue. This is far and away from what Fritz Schumacher would call a ‘convergent problem’.

And I guess I’d be on a hiding to nothing if I ticked the category of ‘Bigotry’ as well…

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As a topical follow-up to my previous entry, take Anne Marie Morris (please!).

It didn’t have to be like this. Theoretically, that speaker, or deputy speaker, is supposed to maintain order, and that applies not just to the farmyard noises in the background, but to the behaviour of whoever is currently permitted to speak. OK, maybe ‘Calm down, dear’ wasn’t an option, but a robust brace of ‘Order!’ might have represented a less violent alternative to the usual remedy for hysteria.

Not so much ‘birth of a battleaxe’ as ‘meet the mentalist’, and [Bercow? He was notable by his silence in the clip I heard] allowed it to happen. I wonder why?

Listening to the deputy speaker in Parliament coming close to losing his rag the other day, due to the barracking of MPs over Libor, I couldn’t help thinking again that one of the most urgently needed reforms in the chamber is to allow television cameras to wander around the room freely, so that we could finally see who the main culprits are. Attention-seekers as many of them may well be, audio-visual evidence of their behaviour would soon be used by their constituents, if not the speaker’s office, to rein them in.

There is another effective alternative, though. A collar, akin to the ones used with dogs, which could deliver a mild(ish) electric charge whenever noise levels in the chamber exceeded a certain level (I wouldn’t be surprised, after all, if the levels are harmful to the ear).

If that seems a little draconian, there are more humane variations on the same theme. Some of them would probably relish a ten minute blanket time-out, say, for excessive noise, but if one takes the total amount of time an MP spends in the chamber while a rumpus is going on, and uses it as a psephological ‘handicap’ during election time, they could become very meek indeed. True, the ones with large majorities might feel they have less to fear, but their handicaps could be modified to address that.

It would be worth publicising this initiative just to wipe the smug looks off their faces for a moment. 

Come on, speaker’s staff, make it happen…