Bring back yah-boo politics – there’s nothing like the noise democracy makes

A boisterous and full House of Commons is needed to bring our democracy back to life, argues John Rentoul

Sunday 11 April 2021 00:01
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<p>A half-empty, sterile House of Commons chamber</p>

A half-empty, sterile House of Commons chamber

There is nothing else like it. The roar of a full chamber of the House of Commons is the noise that democracy makes. Some of the turning points of our history were audible not as words but as sound. I was in the press gallery when Tony Blair told John Major: “I lead my party; he follows his.” The cheers were the end of that Conservative government.

In the twilight of the Blair years, he was asked a question by a Conservative backbencher about a referendum on Europe. Noting the throaty growl of approval on the Tory side of the house, Blair commented that, if he were David Cameron, he would be worried about that. Cameron hadn’t even become prime minister then, yet already his end had been foretold by the noise.

I can’t wait to get back to a boisterous and full Commons. Don’t give me all those complaints about farmyard-schoolyard noises, I want Punch and Judy politics back. Yes, it can be childish and it can be undignified, but it is also serious and it is always testing. It is a test of character and it is a test of policy.

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