Julian Huppert, the MP for Cambridge, is unhappy, according to the Times (£). When he rises to speak in the Commons, his fellow MPs greet him with a collective sigh, as theatre-goers once greeted Peter O'Toole's legendarily calamitous production of "Macbeth". Yesterday, they upped the ante - and Mr Huppert clambered to his feet amidst a chorus of jeers. Hansard records the following recent exchange: "Dr Julian Huppert (Cambridge) rose. Hon Members: "Oh, no." Asked if he felt bullied, Dr Huppert replied - honestly and pithily - "Yes."
I know how he feels. Over ten years ago, I was minding my own business in the Commons chamber, in the pleasant state of daydream that MPs habitually slip into when their colleagues are speaking, when my tranquility was suddenly and brutally disturbed. Tony Banks, the former Labour MP, was speaking. He was saying that John Thurso, the MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, looked remarkably like Lord Lucan. "He has done well to seek the anonymity of being a Liberal Democrat," he said.
By Matthew Barrett
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There is a letter in today's Guardian from Adrian Yalland, a former approved Conservative candidate and now a lobbyist, which defends MPs in light of Eric Joyce's arrest for assault earlier this week.
The crucial part of the letter is:
"As a result of the stress, many have an ambivalent attitude towards the job (both loving and hating it), drink too much, exercise too little, eat unhealthily, work too many hours, and end up in unfortunate situations. Many are lonely, unhappy and living in debt. But they cannot say so, because they would be misunderstood by the media and the electorate, and shown no sympathy because "many others want to do your job". The vast majority of MPs I know, across all parties, are motivated by a commitment to making this country better. Very few go into politics for an easy life or to get rich. But do we have to make it so manifestly difficult for them to do their job? In the end, it is we, the electorate, who suffer."
Yalland ends his letter by saying "it's surely time to support our MPs". But the question is whether MPs will receive support from people outside former Parliamentary candidates and the Westminster village.
If there were to be a re-examination of attitudes towards MPs from the public at large, it would be a sign that the 2010 intake has learnt the lessons of the last Parliament and is managing to change perceptions of this one. There is no sign of this happening at present, however.
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