MPs no longer "honourable"

New Commons Speaker John Bercow, who has already angered Parliament's conservatives-with-a-small-c by ditching the robes worn by speakers past in favour of a simple modern suit, is set to shake things up even more by ending the age-old tradition of MPs referring to one another as "the honourable member."

Since becoming Speaker, Mr. Bercow has been having a right old laugh scaring some of Parliament's more traditionalist members with his dangerously subversive ways. Good man!
Image from Wikipedia. Credit: Office of John Bercow. Used in accordance with Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 license.

In the past, MPs with a military background were referred to as "gallant members" and those from the legal profession as "learned members." Bercow and supporters of the move believe that the use of proper names will make it easier for the public to follow who is saying what when watching or listening to Commons debates.

Some MPs worry that not addressing one another by name prevents debates from descending into personal abuse, though anyone who has been watching televised Parliamentary sittings in the last few weeks will doubt it was ever a very efficient way of doing that. Concerns have also been raised that the move will be linked in the public mind to the expenses scandal, which has highlighted distinctly dishonourable behaviour amongst some members. One suspects it might be just a little bit too late for that - if MPs wish to be known as honourable, they need to act in an honourable way; most people are bright enough to decide for themselves whether their MP is honourable or a scumbag. A larger percentage than before will now just assume that all MPs fall into the latter category; but hey, that's their fault, not ours.

Patrick Mercer, a Conservative MP, says that the term "reminds people of what we are meant to be." The public already knows what MPs are supposed to be (and a good few of them look likely to be reminded of that in the next General Election), and if any member is incapable of remembering without constant reminders that their prime objective at all times must be the wishes of their constituents then they are eminently unsuited to the job.

However - be all that as it may, surely they have better things to worry about right now?

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