An Ironic Boo

The first thing to attract my attention whilst watching Prime Minister's Questions on BBC Parliament with a view to getting to grips with the format was what sounded like a boo from the audience. Sorry, I mean the commons. That came out wrong too. …A sound of disapproval from a Member of Parliament. I can't refer you to the honourable gentleman who gave the boo, but I can tell you that it appeared to be in response to a proposal that we need a budget which "stops spending billions of pounds that we don't have on overseas aid". The boo sounded sarcastic, but then, can a 'boo' in a modern day British parliament really be anything other than a little sarcastic? There was laughing, but that might have been sarcastic too. And I have heard somewhere that sarcasm is the lowest form of humour (but the highest form of intelligence), which implies that the boo was ironic. What are we to derive from this? The statement: we give too much money away when we can't afford it. The ironic boo: somebody pretends to be upset. The laughs: it's funny whether it's the case or not.

It's a facade.

PMQs is a facade. On the face of it anyway. Which is kind of the opposite of oxymoronic. It's a show, that's for sure, but is it a show that it is for show, or is it genuinely showy…do they really believe they are getting away with the facade? Or do they secretly know they're not funny, and merely act as though they don't know they're not funny, as a front? Difficult questions!

Before I do a drastic u-turn and put the pro- argument for the lower chamber forward, I'm going to re-emphasise the claim it is all for show. Now that's irony! Or is it postmodernism?! Not sure.

Four things one might venture to infer about the House of Commons: 1. Everyone there is telepathic, which is how they know to cheer someone before they have said anything! 2. Everyone there is slightly self conscious, which is why they cheer in unison!! 3. The literal record of their statements precludes them from daring to be literally sarcastic, so instead, everyone there criticises the party sitting opposite in a HUGELY sarcastic tone of voice, to emphasise the ferocity of how understated the criticism is in their opinion, which seeps into their tone of voice generally, which is why the cheering sounds false!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and 4. Everyone there is under surveillance (just look at them!), which is why they cheer at all.

The unnerving aspect of House of Commons behaviour is not necessarily the types of responses given by various individual or collective numbers of MPs, it's rather the air of pretence which seems to clothe it. The laughing. It's not natural, is it? It's not real. Is it? Can it be real when one person's laugh elicits a concordance, rather in the vein of canned, than infectious, laughter? And steeped in apparent irony?

Which is why you have to wonder, and begin to take seriously the possibility that to an extent, the houses of parliament ACTUALLY know what they are doing, and merely pretend to be an elite club packed with out of touch eccentrics who seem to be half asleep when they aren't pantomim'ically deriding their political enemies. It's a thought isn't it? That they might have a sincere and genuine plan to save the UK. Conscientious and principled decision-makers in high-pressure circumstances, dynamically and sometimes competitively operating within a fine balance of political forces to protect our liberties.

But no. It can't be an act. No institution is so cleverly coordinated. However it could still be an act that it is an act - so they act as though they are acting, to cover up that it isn't an act that they are acting, it's a fact that it's an act! Is that it? Can anyone tell? It sort of rhymes!

I think there is an element of truth in the assertion that the HoC is only pretending to be full of pretence, and actually they are somewhat upfront about this, if only you watch and listen to the debate, appreciate the four inferences already mentioned, and realise the natural necessity of over-the-top behaviour in an environment which stifles expression in its usual form - how would "Oh yes the party opposite is REALLY cool!" sound if it were taken down in the minutes? - They can't keep saying "...remarked the MP for Conliblab East sarcastically; members should note the vocal tone used in the word 'really.'" In reality, the boo is ambiguous, because, ultimately, still ironic. At the end of the day, comedy protects the limits of freedom of expression. And if you can't prove whether he meant it, or only pretended to, the only sensible reaction is to laugh along with everyone else(!)




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