One of the reasons the behaviour of MPs in the House of Commons is often so appalling, baying and insulting in a way that if done by a school child in a classroom would have MPs lining up to demand tough action to restore decency to British life, is that the place is very small. Lots of people in a small space doesn’t usually bring out the best of behaviour, whether in MPs, commuters, sports fans or even tricycle riders.
But that’s only a partial excuse.
Because another of the reasons is simply that it is orchestrated. Deliberate, planned, organised – and hidden away. There is a skill in heckling in ways an opposing MP hears but the microphones do not pick up, just as there is a skill in organising and egging on colleagues in ways that let you appear all innocent and virtuous in public.
A skill that can go wrong, as Dot Commons’s Diary on PoliticsHome spotted:
Dot has obtained a recording of a cheeky Labour MP urging “more shouting” from his colleagues during a debate on police elections – a rare window into backbench tactics.
Police minister Damian Green had unexpectedly given way to a Labour MP’s question, and the the mic cut over to the Labour half of the chamber, catching the anonymous backbencher in the act – albeit off camera.