Cameras in the Commons: ‘Everything they said would go wrong, has’

…the council leader, there, as she watched Inside The Commons, the much talked-about BBC documentary about parliamentary life, last week. In the first episode, you could spot Holborn and St Pancras MP Frank Dobson proudly voting against the government’s plans for HS2. We have learned recently however that Frank has, over the years, come to mull over his original enthusiasm for allowing cameras inside the Commons.

He told London Live last month: “I was strongly in favour of it, but I have to say that virtually everything the opponents said would go wrong, has.” Like what?, he was asked by the Indy’s Oliver Wright, before replying: “Well have you ever seen anybody on television in a news bulletin making a reasonable, reasoned point [in the House of Commons]? They still do, but it doesn’t get covered. All you get is the lunacy of Prime Minister’s Question Time and things like that, and odd silly incidents. It also meant the coverage in newspapers was massively reduced, a predicted by the people who were against. I don’t think you can go back on it now, but personally I would abolish Prime Minister’s Question Time, I think it’s absolutely ridiculous.”

It’s an interesting assessment and to some extent he’s right. We can’t take the cameras out again, but we’ve reached a stage – and this may sound hypocritical coming from someone who has written about what watch George Osborne wears, and fills these pages with remixed council speeches – where it’s almost as if our main TV channels have decided that we won’t understand/be interested in a weekly round-up of what has happened in the House of Commons unless a leading journalist dresses up as Austin Powers, a train driver, a cowboy or Bananaman for Andrew Neil’s programme and runs through the best one-liners and shouty moments.


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