The "Prime Minister's Questions" part of C-Span coverage of the House of Commons, that is.

Here's how it goes down: The MPs don't address the PM directly, but ask the speaker, "Mr. Speaker, will the Prime Minister do such-and-such, or will he do such-and-such?" To which the PM replies, "Mr. Speaker, the Conservative members should remember this and that." And during all this, the MPs are shouting "No!" or "Hear, hear!" depending what they think of what's being said. They laugh loudly, boo loudly, insult each other (in the third person, since they don't speak directly), holler, and shout each other down, while the Speaker chastises them if they go on too long, all with the utmost of British structure and politeness.

It's brilliant.


Pablo said...

Sounds very much like Australian parliaments (which makes sense, because ours are based on the British model) but possibly with less structure and politeness. This particular part of adversarial politics really brings out the worst in our politicians. It's awful.

Many politicians (ab)use 'Mr Speaker' as a time-filling, time-wasting word (like 'um') in their responses to questions. It's a way to give themselves time to think about what they are going to say next. Nick just pointed out to me that the number of 'Mr Speaker's used often increases according to the level of noise emanating from the other side of the house.

Tasmania's former premier (think 'governor') Paul Lennon, not the world's greatest public speaker, was one of the worst over-users of this phrase that I can recall. I just googled 'Paul Lennon Mr Speaker' and this was on the very first website that turned up:
"Mr Speaker, I've been in public life for 25 years. During that time, Mr Speaker, in public life I've been subjected to a number of personal attacks, Mr Speaker, under the cover of parliamentary privilege and outside the cover of parliamentary privilege.

"Mr Speaker, I've been the subject of intimidation, Mr Speaker, I've had to suffer threats against my family, Mr Speaker. During all that time though, Mr Speaker, I can assure you I have never ever at any stage, Mr Speaker, succumbed to the personal attacks, to the intimidation, to the threats against my family."


Laura said...

Thanks, Kate -- er, I mean Pabs. That's interesting. I heard an episode of some radio program recently where the guest (some kind of linguistics expert) analyzed those kinds of vocal tics in a very favorable way.

In the British parliament, they seemed to repeat themselves rather than say "Mr. Speaker."

I actually love the way the MPs get fired up. Can it turn horribly wrong? Sure. But it's a heck of a lot more interesting watching people shout each other down than watching a (subdued to the point of being funereal) Congressional session! Ugh. Dullsville.

Kevin Schaub said...

Ha! I'm not the only one who watches this!

Laura said...

Toooootally not, Kevin. It's super fun.