If you're unsure if it's acceptable for an MP to play Candy Crush during an important meeting, then let me tell you: it's not

The future of pensions was being discussed, yet Nigel Mills decided to match up coloured sweets on his iPad instead

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The Independent Online

It seems that Nigel Mills MP has a lot in common with my schoolboy self. In the same way that I used to keep myself occupied during classes by playing Pokémon, it's been revealed by The Sun that he played Candy Crush on his iPad for up to two and a half hours during a Work and Pensions Committee session about the future of pensions.

Saying Mills acted like a schoolboy, which seems to have been David Cameron's response (“I'm sure he will be embarrassed”), isn't a good comparison. Firstly, schoolboys are children; Mills was born in 1974. I am told that adults are better at being responsible, working hard and doing their duty than children, although perhaps I have been misinformed.

Secondly, Mills was at an important meeting, not in class. An MP not knowing very much about pensions policy, and later making decisions based on this lack of knowledge, could be damaging, especially because pensions are the largest welfare expenditure (£74.22bn in 2012), and, due to UK's ageing population and young people's falling real wages, in desperate need of effective reform.

Thirdly, the schoolboy risks bad grades, while Mills risks millions of people's pensions, the economy at large, and billions of pounds of public money. These are his responsibilities as an elected representative of the people, whose trust he has betrayed. Mills' website claims “It is an absolute privilege to serve the people of Amber Valley and I am doing my utmost to represent you to the best of my ability.”

 

I don't want to be too hard on Mills: many politicians are often bored. MP Caroline Nokes would text her “toyboy” from the Chamber. Vice President Joe Biden fell asleep during one of President Obama's speeches; a video of an Australian MP eating his own hair went viral. In Zimbabwe a member of parliament was ejected for reading a novel; in France two socialists played a late night game of Scrabble while their right-wing colleagues argued against same-sex marriage (“My friend Jérôme played ‘branleur’ [‘slacker’] for eight letters, but I came back with ‘layette’ [‘baby clothes’]”).

Boredom is also endemic in the House of Commons. The Express revealed that, between January 2013 and January 2014, computers at Parliament accessed gambling websites 3,844,636 times and an extramarital dating site called Out Of Town Affairs 52,375 times, among other things.

Commons Speaker John Bercow has claimed that MPs fiddled their expenses out of boredom and dissatisfaction with parliamentary life. This is not as ridiculous as it sounds: the Economist's Bagehot argues that the “2010ers”, the class of new Tory backbenchers elected in 2010, often instead of incumbents who had claimed fraudulent expenses, are unhappy with life in parliament, and feel marginalised, unproductive and disillusioned.

It is perhaps just coincidental that Mills is himself a 2010er. Political life is undoubtedly boring. Unfortunately for Mills, dealing with that boredom is part of the job, part of the privilege of sitting in Parliament.

Giving in to boredom is a failure, an act of gross misconduct. We must hope that playing video games at work does not become more of a political trend. It is bad enough that Mills plays Candy Crush: imagine what would happen if David Cameron was playing Call of Duty while he was on the phone with Putin, or Nigel Farage was playing Euro Truck Simulator while he was meant to be arriving at a meeting on time.

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