The hardest question to question

Dear Blog Readers

Yesterday was a meandering day spent trawling the highways and byways of Ealing for treasures and eating delicious lunches with some of our best beloved friends. Nothing much happened of any note, which is what made it such a wonderful day.

Love from Mrs. Boo

When I was a bright young thing I thought it was very important indeed to not only be busy all the time, but to have drama in your life. Drama, so I believed, was what showed you that you were really living. If you weren’t up to your neck in some kind of problem or other, or teetering on the edge of calamity in your social/love life, what was the point? If your adrenalin surges were more like ripples on a mill pond, you might as well be dead.

In later years, worn out by childbirth, and the thousand small emergencies children thrust into my path every day that were clearly not emergencies at all unless you were only as high as the kitchen table, but which, nevertheless had to be taken seriously and fixed before those emergencies escalated to all out crisis and utter melt down, I went off adrenalin rather.

Nights spent pacing the floor, glued to a small child by Calpol and snot wondering whether you should call NHS Direct will do that to you. As will your child crying inconsolably for five hours because they don’t think they know how to be a grown up because they don’t know how to have a bank account and they only really want to live in a tent in your back garden and marry daddy.

I learned to cherish solitude in a way I never really did before children, also quietness, and peace. If there is one thing, apart from sleep that I wish I had given more credit to before the days of children, it is peace. It is vastly under-rated in my opinion. Long gone is my desire to be dancing the night away, seeing and being seen. Long gone is my desire to be in the middle of things. The edges are much nicer than I ever imagined.

Although all credit to the children to pushing me into areas of resourcefulness I never knew I had or needed. It turns out that I am not only much more pragmatic than I ever gave myself credit for, but I am also really good at answering questions on the fly. Even if, at times, those answers were a wing and a prayer held together with a bit of angel spit and a lot of chutzpah.

I was thinking about this with regard to Prime Minister’s Question Time yesterday. It was Theresa’s first stab at it, so I paid more attention than usual. I have, in the past, tended to avoid it, because Cameron’s smug face and his utter failure to do anything other than sling insults, jeer, and wobble his jowls around make me want to punch the telly.

I still can’t watch it, it turns out.

Firstly, the school teacher in me wants to make John Bercow do his job, and actually enforce order instead of just feebly sitting in a big chair with that stupid half smile on his face. I loathe the way that MPs, for the most part, totally fail to actually listen to each other. Not to give credit where it isn’t due, but no wonder people like Leadsom start their jobs by asking if climate change is a ‘real thing’, if nobody can hear anyone when MPs are actually in the house, and unless the debate is a hot topic, nobody actually bothers to turn up at all. There is too much hot air. It’s a wonder the Houses of Parliament don’t actually take off.

Maybe they’re anchored by a really big string.

Secondly, I know politicians never actually answer any question that are put to them, but seeing the PM doing it repeatedly is absolutely no fun at all. It is a damn good job it’s not called Prime Minister’s Answers, because none will be forthcoming. Although we could probably sue.

Imagine living with a politician…

Mr. Theresa May: ‘Darling, would you like toast?’

Mrs. Theresa May: ‘Well, I’d be prepared to think about the concept of toast as one that pertains to me.’

Mr. Theresa May: ‘Look. I’m putting some toast on for myself. We’ve got a four slicer. I only want two. I could pop a couple of bits in for you. Would you like me to?’

Mrs. Theresa May: ‘It’s something I’d be willing to put on the table.’

Mr. Theresa May: ‘The kitchen table?’

Mrs. Theresa May: Stares into the middle distance: ‘There are other tables…’

Mr. Theresa May: ‘I’m asking you, for the last frigging time. Do you want toast?’

Mrs. Theresa May: ‘In an austerity government, one is forced to live within ones means for the good of the country.’

Mr. Theresa May: ‘Oh bugger off Theresa. I’m going to the pub instead.’

Thirdly, nothing is resolved. Prime Minister’s Question Time is just like watching a rap battle. It’s all style, no substance and the only bonus is slightly clearer diction in the battlers, as long as you can hear them over the jeers of the back benches.

It is alright for me to crave peace. I’ve done my stint. I don’t sign up for dangerous missions or emergencies. It’s alright for me to opt not to go to a meeting but to stay at home within reach of the biscuit tin. I’ve earned my stripes.

It is not alright for the government to do this. Their job is to deal with dramas and crises, and to surf the adrenalin waves of politics so that we can all carry on raiding the biscuit tin.

It is not alright for the government to fail to provide answers at a time when we need them more than ever. Even I provide answers, and our dramas are minuscule by comparison. I’d be willing to go in and coach the house on the topic of answering questions under fire while being stared in the eye by a toddler with an unwavering desire to win. The indomitable will of a toddler, and their willingness to repeat questions to infinity due to the fact that time is a meaningless construct to them, make Jeremy Paxman’s interview style look milksop by comparison. As for Corbyn, my children could wipe the floor with him.

It is not alright for them to make a lot of noise, but to offer no substance. This is not a high school balloon debate about who wants to be stuck in a wicker basket with Pol Pot, Margaret Thatcher or Stalin.

It is not alright for them to play at this, when the welfare of the country is at stake.

I’m not expecting Theresa to have answers to everything, after all, she’s only been in the job for a week. It would be brilliant however, were she to exceed expectation and actually answer some questions. I’d even take whether she’d like toast or not at this point. Anything at all.

It would be equally brilliant if she were to actually answer questions truthfully. I’d be totally fine with the answer: ‘I don’t know, but I’ll find out.’ I use it all the time. It’s alright to say I don’t know, when even to the most casual observer it is clear that you couldn’t possibly know what you’re being asked. It would restore an enormous amount of confidence in our politicians for me if one of them, not even Theresa, would say: ‘I’m buggered if I know.’

What irritates me most about all this is the fact that during PMQ’s the whole purpose seems to be to ‘look’ busy, just like my children when they know I’m about to ask them to hang the washing out, or unload the dishwasher. Their reasoning is that if they ‘look’ busy, I will fall for it, and think they ‘are’ busy, and will do the job myself. I accept this behaviour in children, although it never works. I find it impossible to tolerate in the government.

14 responses to “The hardest question to question

  1. I’m put in mind of this little ditty:

  2. I have always hated PMQs. So juvenile. It is one of the things people like – or liked, if they are indeed starting to go off him (colour me sceptical on that) – about Jeremy Corbyn. He apparently (as I say I hate PMQs so I haven’t seen it myself) treats it like a grown-up debate not a bun fight, along with giving journos considered answers to questions instead of sound bites.

  3. Congratulations! You actually made me laugh out loud with Mr and Mrs May’s tricky toast dilemma, I seem to have mislaid much of my sense of humour lately – can’t think why….
    I didn’t watch all of the PMQT but I did catch the ‘hilarious’ Thatcher impersonation. Whilst it probably gladdened the hearts of the tory faithful of Tonbridge Wells, it filled mine with horror – there was nothing remotely funny about that witch and if that’s the route Theresa is planning to go down God help us all.
    Like you, there are a number of things I learnt after having my children that might benefit most politicians.
    Firstly, it’s far better to admit you don’t have an answer (but will find one) than to try to bluff, it nearly always comes back to bite you on the bum. Reasonable people (and even unreasonable kids eventually) can accept that you don’t know everything, but you lose all credibility if you pretend that you do then they find out you were bullshitting, or worse.
    Secondly there is no shame in admitting you were wrong sometimes. For example you thought it would be an excellent idea to take three toddlers on a walk round the Cerne Abbas Giant with a picnic lunch, but now it’s pissing down, one of them is prone on his infeasibly large manhood and absolutely refusing to move (much to the indignation of some lady hikers) meanwhile the other two are wailing like banshees and want to go back to the car, which is parked about a mile away. This is no time to be pretending it’s all going swimmingly and was just what you had in mind for the day’s entertainment, it’s all about damage limitation. Nor can you rewrite history and later claim that it was a resounding success and a good time was had by all. All you can do is learn from the experience (after you have drunk a LOT of wine that is).
    You can’t fix something if you refuse to admit it’s broken, even if that means accepting it was you that dropped it, and let’s face it people in power can be very clumsy. I would have more, not less, respect for them if they were more prepared to ditch the dogma, if it blatantly isn’t working, and try something else.

  4. Yes, to one day be able to watch MP’s at ‘work’, actually doing something more than letting off hot air, would be:

    1) Amazing,
    2) Incredible,
    3) Make me realise that I’m actually just having one of my vivid dreams again!

    Surely there are many voters watching them at their childish games, where they heckle and peck each other like unruly cockerels?

    Or do you think we are the only ones who do actually watch them snoring away while a vote is taken that will affect most of the people in the UK who are not one of the 1% who own almost everything?

  5. Hi Katy,

    At least Mrs May gave a direct answer in the Trident debate as to whether she would press the nuclear button. “Yes”… ifs, no buts, you can’t get clearer than that. I think we might at last have a Prime Minister in whom we can have a modicum of confidence.

    • Sadly that just terrifies me. If the only think she can give a straight answer to is that she would be willing to plunge us into the end of the world, it’s a pretty sad day for me.

  6. “I’d be willing to go in and coach the house on the topic of answering questions under fire …” Oh, how I wish you would!

  7. Hello Katy. Back in the mists of time, PM James Callaghan could be heard to answer a question with (eg): ” That’s a question for my right honourable friend, the Secretary of State for Education. I’ll ask him to reply .” What a sensible response!

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