Labour MP Jim Fitzpatrick revealed on the Victoria Derbyshire programme on Tuesday that some MPs had been in tears during Saturday’s parliamentary sitting, apparently overwhelmed by the “political and emotional pressure” of the occasion.
Fitzpatrick’s revelation is an illustration of the extent to which the Commons chamber is no longer just the beating heart of our democracy, but something resembling a therapy workshop in which MPs seem increasingly eager to relay their own personal tales of woe. I have to say I find it all a bit feeble.
There was a time when parliament was stocked with tough, worldly and resilient men and women who had often experienced their own personal hardships and tragedies — some had even seen the horrors of war — but chose not to go on about it.
In contrast, it now seems de rigueur for MPs to tearfully recount their own particular traumas from the green benches, and to then be the subject of much backslapping and applause for having done so.
No doubt it’s a reflection of how our society has itself become softer and more lachrymose over recent years. But I’m just not sure the nation wishes to witness the spectacle of MPs parading their private demons in this way.
Forgive me for saying so, but I prefer my parliamentarians to be a bit more old school. They are running the country. They are making crucial — sometimes life and death — decisions. They need to show a bit of mettle, especially at times like these. I am not filled with confidence by MPs who experience some kind of emotional meltdown whenever the going gets tough.
It’s true that politics has become more heated since 2016, and there is no excuse for MPs being targetted for gratuitous abuse, but this new culture of victimhood does not earn them any sympathy — especially with their current standing being what it is — among a public who themselves have often experienced far greater challenges in their own lives.
Some MPs seem not have checked the job spec when applying. Politics is a rough old business — and so it should be. Democracies are healthier when elected representatives are subjected to proper scrutiny and pressure. Yes, some unpleasant people will occasionally cross the line, but whinging and whining about it wins MPs no fans.