MPs need a nanny – and some manners

Share

When Russell Crowe piped up recently that the treatment of the former Australian prime minister Julia Gillard lacked "gallantry", he meant well but his choice of words was wrong. Crowe was reacting to a menu at a Liberal fundraiser which included "Julia Gillard Kentucky Fried Quail – small breasts, huge thighs, and a big red box". My dictionary says gallantry is thoughtfulness and courtesy "especially towards women", but it wasn't chivalric valour Gillard was after. She didn't want coats draped over puddles; just a little respect and some manners, the same as any Aussie bloke would expect.

We congratulate ourselves in this country that we don't call our female ministers "deliberately barren", accuse them of shaming their fathers to death or ask them if their male partners are gay, but our own political discourse is far from gallant, or even courteous. Last week the spectacle in the Commons was particularly disgusting: a bunch of posh boys laughing their little heads off as they cut benefits to the poor. Chivalrous? Hardly. Well-mannered? Not at all.

David Cameron is famous for his politeness, according to those who know him of old (and presumably haven't seen him making fat jokes about Eric Pickles at the party conference). When he was young, he tipped the maid who cleaned his room when he stayed at a girlfriend's parents' house, which greatly endeared him to the girlfriend's mum. Cameron has been brought up to know how to treat staff, but apparently not to recognise that "Calm down, dear" is not an appropriate response to a woman who is disagreeing with him, or that pointing and laughing at opponents isn't an acceptable way to engage in a debate.

But it's not just him. Generally, the Commons resembles a classroom where an incompetent supply teacher has allowed it to run out of control. It doesn't need a Speaker, it needs a nanny. The Mother of all Parliaments is an embarrassment, and that's not counting the fact that we subsidise its bars. How must this look to other, more civilised parliaments? Such as Australia's.

In the 1970s linguists identified the concepts of positive politeness and negative politeness, the first being about friendliness and the second about deference. These still apply in normal interactions, but increasingly in public discourse we deal with two types of rudeness. The first is the rudeness of the powerless: the internet trolls who act from a combination of amusement, boredom, revenge and a craving for power, according to academic research published last week (and common sense published since time began). The second comes from powerful types to whom the little people just don't count.

The other thing that Russell Crowe said was that the office of Prime Minister deserves respect … but it's hard to respect people who behave the way our politicians do. Childish bitching by those in power, he added, "gives licence to a type of hater that will only further reduce the quality of our lives". Hear hear, Mr Crowe, Sir. You don't have to be gallant to believe that.

twitter.com/@katyguest36912

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Qualified Primary Teaching Assistant

£64 - £73 per day + Competitive rates based on experience : Randstad Education...

Primary KS2 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Primary NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Primary NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Piper Ryan Randall leads a pro-Scottish independence rally in the suburbs of Edinburgh  

i Editor's Letter: Britain survives, but change is afoot

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Some believe that David Cameron is to blame for allowing Alex Salmond a referendum  

Scottish referendum: So how about the English now being given a chance to split from England?

Mark Steel
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam