It was the feeling of a crowded chamber which he said made debates so exciting.
The week has been about nothing but Brexit. We have been glued to our TV screens as the House of Commons has undergone several convulsions wrestling with the Brexit issue. From today, there are only 11 days left before the original exit date arrives — if it is not postponed till June 30. Day after day last week, the House of Commons was heaving with bodies. As it is, the chamber is too small to accommodate every MP on a seat, At such moments, the situation looks even more dramatic. The chamber is packed. There are people standing behind the Speaker or near the other end from where the Speaker sits.
The MPs do not complain. They like the crowded facility. After the bombing that the chamber suffered during World War II, Winston Churchill insisted that the chamber be rebuilt exactly as it was and not made larger and with seats for everyone. It was the feeling of a crowded chamber which he said made debates so exciting.
Last Tuesday, Theresa May put her “deal” to vote. It was an unforgettable moment. She had been working round the clock flying to European capitals to get concessions. The result was she had lost her voice. But she kept going on. “Croaky Horror Show” is how one unkind headline described her the next morning.
As it is, British newspapers are not very respectful of their MPs. Every day they carry a sketch of happenings in the chamber, making fun of individual MPs. Over the last few days the papers have had a field day. If Tuesday was disastrous for Ms May, losing by a margin of 149 votes, the next two days were a blow to the people opposing her. Vote after vote followed in the House of Commons and you could see MPs rushing into the lobby. Even as the chamber was packed, there were still some trying to get in. The House of Commons, like the House of Lords, has a very antiquated system of voting. No pushing of buttons from where you sit. There is no fixed seat for anyone except the Speaker. Members go into the Aye or the Nay lobby. There are two tellers for each side chosen from the members who count the votes. Members vote and crowd back into the chamber.
If anyone seems to be enjoying it, it is the Speaker. John Bercow has not been popular with his Conservative Party MPs. He has one more year to go and there are mutterings that he should not be given a peerage which is usually bestowed on Speakers. But nowadays he has become part of our lives. Unlike what happens in the Lok Sabha, there is no doubt that the Speaker rules over the House.
Things may change, by the way, when MPs and lords are decanted from the Palace of Westminster while it is being refurbished and repaired in 2025 for five years.
We can only hope that by that future date in the 2030s, the country has finally made up its mind about Brexit. The latest is the extension Ms May has just won in the Commons but the European Union has to grant the demand. Only one thing is certain: The two dozen people carrying placards and posters for and against Brexit outside the Parliament building might find they have become semi-permanent fixtures and may have to find a way to battle the vagaries of British weather through the months ahead!
Meanwhile, how do authors “reveal” the sexual preferences of characters in novels. One would have thought that it is through the novel itself. But not if the author is J.K. Rowling, whose characters appear to be larger than life. And in fact, these are now so real that people want to know even the most “private” details about them. And so it should not have surprised me at all when Rowling has reportedly said that two of her characters, Albus Dumbledore and Gellert Grindelwald, had apparently shared a “passionate” and “intense” relationship in the past. The odd thing is that this relationship is neither written about, nor in the movies made about them — where their roles are assayed by Johnny Depp and Jude Law. However, this is only an off stage, off page, off screen revelation. An entirely new (and gay) dimension has thus been added to the series. Oh well — perhaps it will allow their fans to regard them in a new light. This has blurred reality and fiction even more — when fictional characters also start coming out of the closet in real time.
When asked what were their favourite pleasures in a survey by the Daily Mirror, 2,000 people responded by listing the following: going to the pub, staying at home indoors all day in pyjamas, talking with their husband or wife without the children being around and finding money by chance. I have to say, these are the simplest of all pleasures: but the favourite of all has to be staying at home all day in night clothes. It is a childish delight — yet something which never fails to bring joy to all age groups ….wouldn’t you agree?