There are some very strange things going on in Parliament at the moment. I’m not talking about the weird feeling of sitting on the government benches on the opposite side of the Chamber.
I’m not even talking about grappling with how to refer to Conservative MPs in debate in the Chamber. ‘My Honourable friend?’ ‘My Honourable ally? I’ve settled on ‘the Honourable Member’: it seems to work ok.
No: I’m talking about the new system of electing select committee chairs by the whole house, which has brought about a revolution in the relationships between members of opposing parties.
An MP from another party who would never have given you the time of day in the last parliament suddenly becomes your new best friend.
‘Hi Lorely, could I prevail upon you to sign my nomination form for the Treasury Select Committee? I’ve been working frightfully hard on it for some years now’ or ‘ah, Lorely, would you be so very kind as to give me your number one preference for the Health Select Committee?’
Select committees are very important in holding the government to account.
They are composed of members from all the main parties and the chairs are allocated according to the number of seats held by each party. So it’s good that all MPs elect the person who will set the tone and direction of the committee.
So having moaned for years about ending the ‘Punch and Judy’ adversarial tone of politics, who’d have thought that simple elections of committee chairs could have fostered a whole new era of co-operation?
Don’t worry, though. You’ll still see the pantomime of Prime Minister’s Questions, but underneath all that I have a hope that parties CAN work together: even if it’s the system which requires it rather than an altruistic wish to put the interests of Britain first.