MPs are sheep; political journalists are hyenas

Diane Abbott MP said something interesting on the radio the other day, namely that the atmosphere among her fellow-MPs was “hysterical”. And the cause of the hysteria? Why the expenses scandal (mainly) plus fear of losing their seats. In the circumstances, Abbott worried about her colleagues’ ability to make any rational decisions about Gordon Brown’s future. She might be right.

But what would such a ‘rational’ strategy be like? Answer: it would involve calming down and letting Brown survive subject to conditions about sorting out the expenses shambles and a modicum of attainable constitutional reform (like fixed-term Parliaments, reductions in the volume of legislation, relaxation of the Party whip system and giving MPs the right to choose membership and chairmanship of Select Committees).

Switching leaders now — however emotionally satisfying it might be — would be suicidal, not just for Labour MPs but also for the country. It would provoke an emergency General Election which, if held at the moment, would produce crazy results. In fact, if MPs wanted to ensure a few Westminster seats for the BNP to add to the two European Parliament seats they picked up last night, then provoking an election is the best way to go about it. What should be in everybody’s minds now is what happened in Holland after the murder of Pim Fortuyn — when the Dutch elected a parliament of fruitcakes and rendered their country virtually ungovernable for several years.

As for political journalists… well their orgasmic delight at being able to cover such a juicy story is becoming nauseating. They really are like hyenas closing in on a wounded beast. And apart from anything else, most of them are adding little if any value to the story. And yet BBC TV (and no doubt ITV and Sky too) persist in wasting energy, fuel, time and money ferrying their big name reporters to Downing Street instead of sticking them in a studio or keeping them in Westminster where they can get on with real investigation and reporting.

It’s really irritating, for example, to see the ludicrous way the Beeb is mis-using its Political Editor, Nick Robinson. He’s very useful as a summarising, contextualising commentator after others have done the leg-work. But the most value-adding contribution he’s made over the last few frantic days was a piece to camera recorded at his desk. Dragging him to Downing Street to say exactly the same thing would have been daft. But that’s what they do most of the time.