At first, I thought that BBC was playing a clip from a football match or a town meeting gone terribly wrong. The crowd’s voice on my radio was full of derision and scorn, and although the words were unintelligible, I could picture them saying something like, “Aw, c’mon ref! My grandma could call this game better than that!”
But after a few seconds of attentive listening, it became clear that this cacophony was not produced by a pack of sports fans or a riotous mob or a bunch of irate parents at a PTA meeting. It was the leaders of Great Britain in a little Wednesday afternoon tradition called the Prime Minister’s Question Time.
I know that the title sounds innocuous, but let me assure you that Gordon Brown is not seated in a rocking chair in the middle of the story circle, reading Where the Wild Things Are to the Members of Parliament. Nor is he pulling slips of paper out of a cardboard suggestion box labeled “How can Britain do better?”
Every Wednesday for a half hour, Britain's Prime Minister hoofs it down to the House of Parliament to face the questions of the MPs. There’s a lot of sitting and standing, a lot of booing and hoorahing, and more than the occasional snide comment. It’s great. But I think that they would get a lot more done if the crowd wasn’t always interrupting the proceedings with all the shouting.
My thoughts on the matter:
I don’t think it’s a bad thing that the leader of a country has to stand before his peers and support his policies on a weekly basis. I mean, I’m sure that Brown has a bunch of lackeys to gather evidence for him and write responses to questions, but ultimately, it is his face in front of that microphone and his voice defending the position that his party has elected to take. It puts me in mind of the presidential debates that have been going on in the States. But I’m also sure that it has its disadvantages…complicated explanations cannot be laid out in twenty seconds and often the questions that fly around Parliament are designed less to inquire and more to accuse.
But it’s fun to listen to, even as an ignorant outsider.
Also, by way of a heads up; do not go into politics if you have personal space issues. I cannot believe how they pack those MPs on the benches.