If your columnist were ever granted the power to unilaterally re-write Parliament’s standing orders – and I do sometimes dream of this (it’s been a full and exciting life, it really has) – there are a few standout areas that need a fairly substantial re-think. […]
Other countries make special concessions for budget debates, although they’re pretty minor.
In the UK, the only time anyone is allowed to consume alcohol in the House of Commons debating chamber is during the budget speech by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Fair enough, you might think – but of course the only person who is allowed to consume any alcohol is the Chancellor himself. Not, sadly, the listening MPs or anyone in the galleries.
It’s difficult to avoid a nagging feeling the Brits have got this the wrong way round.
I’m not going to suggest New Zealand allow drinking in the chamber by any MPs – although I’ve felt, down the years, that one or two MPs would benefit from the ingestion of some of the stronger narcotics.
No, I’d just change the dress code. Anyone taking part in the budget debate – especially the party leaders and finance spokespeople – would have to wear nothing but loin cloths, and bones through their noses.
They also would carry sticks for gesticulating with.
The centre of the debating chamber would be cleared, and be piled up with the previous budget’s fiscal strategy reports; estimates of appropriations; minister of finance speeches; budget forecasts; revisions of budget forecasts; revisions of revisions of budget forecasts; and explanations of why the revisions of the revisions of budget forecasts weren’t quite as accurate as everyone thought at the time. […]
Pile the documents into the middle of the chamber and set fire to the lot.
The budget debate would then be conducted around this pyre, with the various party leaders and finance spokespeople dancing around the fire in loin cloths, making faces at each other and pointing with bones and sticks.
Backbench MPs could beat drums as they do so, and chant and sing loudly.
This is, of course, pretty much what happens anyway, in allegorical terms.So here is Richard Thompson, live, in 1991 with a fine band that includes Shawn Colvin on acoustic rhythm and vocals, performing “A Bone Through Her Nose” from his 1986 album Daring Adventures. Dodgy visuals and a hum on the sound but it’s worth it for the witty lyrics and the guitar solos – the second one is amazing. Talk about scorchio: