Friday, March 20, 2009

House Points: Ricky Tomlinson and the Youth Parliament

Today's House Points column from Liberal Democrat News.

Student politics

If you watched Red Riding you will believe that life in the 1970s consisted of policemen beating people up in semi-darkness. But there was more to it than that – strikes, for instance.

In 1972 a group of trade unionists from the building industry were prosecuted after flying picketing around Shrewsbury and Telford turned to violence. Their leaders – Des Warren and Eric Tomlinson – were jailed on conspiracy charges and became known as “The Shrewsbury Two”.

The affair was controversial in its day, but would be long forgotten if Eric Tomlinson had not turned into the actor Ricky Tomlinson. As it is, the case was mentioned in the Commons on Monday.

Jim Devine, Labour MP for Livingston, said 60 people had attended a demonstration the previous Thursday. He complained that when they tried to enter the Palace of Westminster they were told to take their “Shrewsbury Two” T-shirts off.

Mr Speaker, a shop steward himself in those days, saw no reason why this should have happened and undertook to investigate.

As well as looking back on Monday, the Commons looked forward. It voted to allow the United Kingdom Youth Parliament to use the chamber for a meeting during the summer recess.

As the Labour MP Michael Jabez Foster said:

“Of course it is a privilege to be in this place. Every one of us, as we enter this building, appreciates that it is a place of great history and great precedent ... It has that history, but that adds to the reasons why young people should be encouraged and have the opportunity to take part.”

Only 16 MPs voted against the idea. A little surprisingly, two of them were Liberal Democrats. (Since you ask: Bob Russell and Jeremy Browne.)

I don’t know why they voted that way, but there is the argument that young people should be too busy learning to drink, getting laid or writing ripostes to their ludicrous novelist mothers in the Daily Mail to get involved in politics.

And the worry must be that the members of the Youth Parliament will whisper, giggle, catcall, pass notes to one another, shout across the chamber, play to the camera, stand up and bellow ... In short, that they will behave just like existing MPs.


Niles said...

For the record, Jeremy Browne explained his reasons in this piece over on't Voice.

dreamingspire said...

'Twas in the early 90s when TV dramatists looked forward to the Millenium and forecast (and dramatised) scenes of widespread rioting in the streets. It didn't happen, so now they have to look back and dramatise scenes of 1970s rioting in the streets.

Jonathan Calder said...

The most accurate picture of Provincial England in the 1970s is that given by The League of Gentlemen.

Anonymous said...

Much as I admire The League of Gentlemen, I'd recommend instead Abigail's Party.