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A change of style and of substance

Jan 09,2021 - Last updated at Jan 09,2021

The development of parliamentary life is a crucial matter for us in this country, not only because the parliament as institution fills a fundamental function at this point in time, due to its legislative and monitory roles, but because a vibrant parliamentary life is closely connected to a vibrant democracy.

The status of the democratic process in the country is a priority for us, and in the past 100 years we have seen it thrive and prosper, slowly but steadily.

Much has been achieved, and much needs to be achieved still.

A lot of work needs to be done with political parties for the purpose of enabling them to mature and become more representative of people and more deeply entrenched.

But the development of parliamentary life is a dimension which we need to do our best to achieve, since it is an epitome of our democratic life.

Clearly, this requires a lot of efforts, and at so many levels.

One of the most important levels is the image that parliamentarians have of their role and function.

To be sure parliamentarians differ in their demeanor, in their style, and in their approach, but based on our experience with several parliaments and parliamentarians over the past thirty or more years, a dominant type has strongly emerged; one that does not live up to either our expectations of what an MP is and does, or the requirements of such a vital office.

We are speaking here of the MP who is always critical and dismissive, but not analytical or persuasive; sensational and attention-hungry, but not soft-spoken and low key; devoted to rhetoric and discourse, but not to substance of issues.

This is what we see when any matter is discussed under the dome, and this is what we have seen in current responses to the current government’s policy statement and plans delivered last week.

This type of MP, the always emotional, always angry, and always nihilist, fails to contribute positively or effectively to our understanding of issues or to influencing governmental action in meaningful ways.

Clichés and sweeping statements, which many of our MPs employ in their speeches and interventions, are good to no one.

If anything, they are counterproductive: they always help governments come on top, as such speeches and interventions cause an adverse effect: i.e. instead of bringing MPs sympathy and support, they bring disappointment and criticism from people.

What is needed at this point in time is a different temperament, different style and different approach.

What is needed is rhetoric grounded in a deep understanding of issues, speeches based on analysis of substance, and a clear vision as to what the real issues are and what the solutions to them should be.

For this to happen, there perhaps needs to be training programmes for MPs and building of skills and capacities to enable them to live up to the requirements of their office and their role.

This target should be given a priority, as losing faith in MPs, which we have seen a lot of in recent years, might lead to losing faith in parliamentary life itself — something which we should not allow to happen.

Urgent action then is needed at this level: and we want change of style and change of substance.

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