News & views
Commons Speaker floats idea of dropping ‘honourable’ references but jargonauts fight back
[17 Jan 2015] The impersonal way MPs traditionally address each other in the (UK) House of Commons could change if an idea floated by the Speaker, John Bercow, is adopted. At present, members use variations on the subtle themes of ‘honourable gentleman’, ‘honourable lady’, ‘honourable member for Erewhon’, ‘my honourable friend’ and ‘the right honourable lady’; and only the Speaker may refer to an MP by name. Bercow says Parliament should review whether it should move towards a more ‘modern system’.
We think it should: the current approach is tedious, timewasting and confusing to outsiders. (The House of Lords uses similar rhubarb, with peers referring to each other as ‘my noble lord’, ‘the noble lady’ etc.)
MPs do sometimes object to other people’s jargon, eg the nonsense uttered before them by Jon Day, an official who chairs the Joint Intelligence Committee. He declared: ‘Each department has its own horizon-scanning policy development machinery. If I was to identify the first risk, it is that this work is stove-piped.’ Alluding to the ordure of a male farm animal, Greg Mulholland, a Liberal Democrat MP, said he could think of an eight-letter word to describe such language.
Meanwhile, in a statement about blankets and tents for displaced people in Iraq, Philip Hammond, the Foreign Secretary, told MPs he was busy ‘winterising refugee accommodation’.
(Source: Daily Telegraph, 21 Nov and 13 Dec 2014, Daily Mail 17 Oct 2014]