Action needed on bullying in the workplace

Seriously, what is the world coming to when in the Mother of Parliaments, the most powerful politician in the country invokes his own mother to castigate the Leader of the Opposition.

Here’s their exchange:

The Prime Minister: I am very proud of the NHS in Oxfordshire and everyone who works in it. Having met the head of the Oxford Radcliffe trust recently, I know that he supports the move towards more seven-day services. That is absolutely vital.

Carolyn Harris (Swansea East) (Lab): Ask your mother!

The Prime Minister: Ask my mother? I know what my mother would say. She would look across the Dispatch Box and say, “Put on a proper suit, do up your tie and sing the national anthem.”

Jeremy Corbyn: If we are talking of motherly advice, my late mother would have said, “Stand up for the principle of a health service free at the point of use for everybody.” That is what she dedicated her life to, as did many of her generation.

Corbyn comes out of this with some credit, but this rather personal criticism comes from the Prime Minister comes just two days after the Commons collapsed in hilarity over a Tory MP’s jibe.

Corbyn heckled during EU debate“Who are you?”A Conservative MP berates Jeremy Corbyn in the House of Commons during EU debate.

Posted by Channel 4 News on Monday, 22 February 2016

Labour MPs are more than capable of being just as rowdy. Remember what they used to do to Julian Huppert every time he got up to speak. I’ll never forget the time when Willie Rennie was called a “Scottish Git” by Tory MPs while a Labour frontbencher smirked. He was introducing a bill enabling driving instructors to be suspended from the national register and explaining how he’d been motivated to do so by his constituent’s experience of being sexually assaulted by her driving instructor.

When all’s said and done, the Commons is a workplace and surely the Speaker has a responsibility to ensure that it sets an example to the rest of us. Name-calling, shouting, belittling, demeaning colleagues is not how it should be.

Yet again, I am inspired by a Liberal Prime Minister from across the Atlantic. Yesterday was Pink Shirt Day, a national anti-bullying day in Canada. Here’s his message:

Pink Shirt Day / Journée du chandail roseOn Pink Shirt Day, we stand up to bullying and vow to spread kindness.Durant la Journée du chandail rose, nous disons non à l’intimidation et nous nous engageons à répandre la gentillesse.

Posted by Justin Trudeau on Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Our Tim Farron was far from impressed with yesterday’s shenanigans.

What was extraordinary is that while Speaker Bercow huffs and puffs about people’s behaviour, he never actually does anything to stop it. It is surely time for him to take control and start throwing people out when they behave badly. He wouldn’t have to do it very often.

This is all most people see of the Commons and it’s not exactly edifying. Nobody should have to put up with public humiliation at work.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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13 Comments

  • Eddie Sammon 25th Feb '16 - 1:34pm

    I agree about Cameron’s remark. Most commentators, even left-leaning ones, seemed to think Cameron’s remark about Corbyn’s dress sense won it for him. I thought it was petty and showed weakness in the face of difficult questions on the NHS.

  • Peter Watson 25th Feb '16 - 1:43pm

    I think Corbyn’s best response was later on Twitter when he quoted Albert Einstein:

    If most of us are ashamed of shabby clothes and shoddy furniture let us be more ashamed of shabby ideas and shoddy philosophies

    I also think it suited Cameron to have this non-story highlighted in the media than the real issues.

  • Graham Martin-Royle 25th Feb '16 - 1:44pm

    And that is what pass’s for debate in the HoC. And then politicians wonder why they are disliked. As for Mr Cameron’s jibe, he should realise that it is far better to answer a question than to indulge in ad-hom arguments.

  • While I agree with Tim Farrons description of the incident, this is hardly “bullying in the workplace”.

  • Cameron came across very badly. He threw in a personal attack on Corbyn in reaction to labour backbenchers and not to anything Corbyn said. I don’t know if it’s bullying in the work place, but most certainly the instinctive reaction of a snob and a bully under pressure. Cameron often reacts with red faced bluster when he loses it.

  • malc 25th Feb ’16 – 2:35pm
    “While I agree with Tim Farrons description of the incident, this is hardly “bullying in the workplace”.”

    Yes I agree. It’s also pretty insulting to the people who have suffered genuine ” workplace bullying”, not least in the Lib Dem party.

  • Corbyn had a good comeback when he shouted ” STAND UP for the NHS….” the house fell silent.

  • I don’t know if it’s bullying in the work place, but most certainly the instinctive reaction of a snob and a bully under pressure.

    It wasn’t instinctive at all: it was clearly a prepared remark that he had had written for him, and had rehearsed, in case Corbyn brought up his mother (as Ed Miliband certainly would have done). The one thing he couldn’t do if Corbyn did bring up the mother thing is look tongue-tied or defensive, so he needed a ready response.

    When he heard his mother mentioned, he fell back on the remark he had prepared for that circumstance. Except it didn’t quite work, because it wasn’t Corbyn who said it, so he ended up looking slightly silly because he replied to someone other than the person who had spoken.

    But no, it wasn’t an instinctive reaction, or in any way spontaneous; it was quite the opposite: a rehearsed, planned response.

  • PMQ’s has not only now descended into playground banter: I believe it was Ed Milliband who faced the hilarious comment about having a lack of friends in school, a Tory MP dropped words into their speech as part of a bet and for some reason applause is uncouth but however you could describe that noise MP’s make is acceptable….and that’s just in recent years. So many MP’s on all sides forget what they say has a real impact on the lives of ordinary people and treat it as a game of who can sit on the most seats.

    While Labour’s reshuffle may have extended into a farce, Angela Eagle’s snide comments at PMQ’s lost her position while Hilary Benn’s dignified performance kept his. That’s the way it should be until we have the vast majority of MP’s who understand it shouldn’t be about playground banter or getting one over the enemy but real issues, real people and an opportunity to have a real positive impact.

  • We saw the real David Cameron come out – the Bully of the Bullingdon Club that lurks under the suave exterior.. But at least that’s one thing he shares with his nemesis Boris – described to his face by Eddie Mair as ‘a nasty piece of work’.

    Boris Johnson accused: ‘you’re a nasty piece of work’ – video
    http://www.theguardian.com › Politics › Boris Johnson

    Come back Flashman – All is forgiven.

  • Pathetic to raise his mother by the Labour MP and worse to respond it he way Cameron did, a plague on both their houses…
    As for the speaker addressing the behaviour,I would rather he made the PM actually answer questions, that is the real reason question time is a joke….

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