Yesterdays stunt by Caroline Lucas in drawing attention to the No More Page 3 campaign, one I am proud to support personally was a clear breach of House of Commons etiquette. The chair of the Westminster debate on sexism in the media, Labour MP for Lanark and Hamilton East, Jimmy Hood was quite right to challenge the MP for Brighton Pavilion and ask her to put her jacket on if she wanted to participate in the debate. However in this as in a number of other areas of our public life, the real villain is not my MP or the NMP3 Campaign. It is not even the man who has been a Scottish MP for 26 years who ruled against Caroline. It is the disconnect between our legislative structures and real life that the majority of people in the UK live.
Our Parliament is governed by a set of anachronistic rules and traditions that are as absurd and confusing as they are amusing on occasions. In the context of yesterdays debate, the fuss and bother created by Caroline being improperly dressed in the Palace of Westminster ensured that a matter which could so easily have been ignored by the papers and broadcast media became a headline. The sooner we see the end to page 3 the better, and how fantastic that one out of date tradtion drew attention to the abolition of another. However with Parliament seen to be irrelevant by as many as half of the electorate now is the time to consider if it should remain the home of people who are expected to stand two sword lengths apart or perhaps become the home of people who are not threatened by a T shirt with some words related to the matter being debated.
Many of the people I have spoken to in recent months are tired of a Parliamentary system that depends on an adversarial approach when in so many other walks of life consensus decision making is recognised as providing vital ways of working. Despite rather pathetic attempts to reduce the number of constituencies from 650 to 600, the real challenge is to come up with a new model that is not based on how many MPs we can afford to lose in order to settle old scores, but rather how large a Parliament a modern democracy of 60M people needs. Today will be a new day in the Mother of all Parliaments and I am sure that no one will be tempted to follow Carolines example. However the real question (in the turkeys voting for Christmas category) is who should begin the public debate about what our Parliament should look like. It is clear that most of the current members do not have the appetite for a real reform. Time is pressing, if for no other reason than the Palace of Westminster is in desperate need of a major renovation. If we could resolve what we need for the next 100 years, decisions about the redecorating could be taken more effectively, let alone the chance to create better legislation sooner rather than later!