Julian Huppert On Bullying In Parliament

john_bercow17:07 Thursday 13th June 2013
Drive BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

RONNIE BARBOUR: The question of whether bullying is a problem in the Houses of Parliament has been raised by Cambridge’s MP, who said he’d been a victim. Whenever Julian Huppert rises to speak in the Commons his words are often drowned out by jeers and groans. It’s also been suggested that Speaker John Bercow may heve encouraged the unruly behaviour by referring to Mr Huppert as “The Good Doctor”. Just before we came on air, I spoke to Mr Huppert, and I asked why he’d raised the issue of bullying in Parliament now. (TAPE)
JULIAN HUPPERT: It’s not an issue that I particularly raised. I had a Question at Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday when I was trying to draw attention to the fact that it’s National Carers’ Week, and there are hundreds of thousands of carers who do a phenomenal job across the country, looking after their relatives or friends even. What I wanted to do was to ask for the Prime Minister’s support for the great work that they do. Unfortunately it was somewhat marred by the fact that the Chamber is so full of people shouting, and particularly they shout a lot at me. I wasn’t the only one. But it’s really unacceptable behaviour, and I don’t think Parliamentarians should behave like children.
RONNIE BARBOUR: Do you think it’s bullying?
JULIAN HUPPERT: I think some of it is very much bullying. There is clearly an effort by some MPs to try to make it harder for some people to speak. And you can see this with a range of people. It’s happening to me at the moment. It’s happened to other people in the past. It will happen to more people in the future, which is what really upsets me. There was one Conservative MP who has cerebral palsy, and some of the Labour MPs used to pull faces at them, that they don’t have a slightly distorted face. It’s just simply unacceptable behaviour.
RONNIE BARBOUR: It’s always been that way though. I can remember some of the previous MPs,(for) who there would be a groan go up, and I gather that that’s one of the issues where you’re concerned, that the groans happen. That’s the way, that’s the debate Chamber, as it were.
JULIAN HUPPERT: But I think it’s not the way that it should be. It’s not the way that the leadership of our country, our legislature, should behave. We’re trying to get more people into politics, we’re trying not to make it an exclusive debating club. We’re trying to get more women into politics. I can see why a lot of people, women and men, would look at that sort of behaviour and say, actually that’s not the environment where I would like to talk about things. So just because it’s happened in the past I don’t think is a good reason for people to behave like that now.
RONNIE BARBOUR: How do you think the Speaker has been with you then? Because he, and I’m paraphrasing here, called you “The Good Doctor”, and there’s some people saying that that maybe encouraged a bit of mickey-taking, as it were.
JULIAN HUPPERT: Well I think the Speaker’s not doing that any more, and it is something which he highlighted. Not that I particularly would want him to. It’s not .. I happen to have a doctorate, but it’s not something I focus on particularly heavily. The Speaker has a very very tough job. You have so many people shouting. He had to intervene yesterday, I guess it was something like five or six times, to try to get people to be quiet. And certainly when I’ve been there just listening to other people ask Questions, there are times when I literally cannot hear the Question, or the answer. I’m going to keep going. I’m going to keep raising the issues that matter to Cambridge, whether they’re about carers, whether they’re about the school funding we need, about cycling, about all the other issues that matter. I’ll keep going, because I think it’s important enough to Cambridge and Cambridge values. I just think it sends a really bad signal to the public, if this is how Parliament behaves.
RONNIE BARBOUR: Some of the papers have picked up on it Julian, and I just wonder whether you’re going to be in for more of the same. You put yourself above the parapet, as it were.
JULIAN HUPPERT: Well as I say we’ll have to see. I think it’s important to say that this is not acceptable behaviour, and I hope that Parliament will stop and look and think about how it happens. Responding to what people say is fine. Cheering, disagreeing, that’s all fine. But I think some of the practices are simply inappropriate. I’ll keep going, and at some point it will stop. What worries me most is that other people will then be targeted, because we do see that happening.
RONNIE BARBOUR: Do you think you’re boring?
RONNIE BARBOUR: Do you think you’re boring?
JULIAN HUPPERT: Well I think most people don’t think they’re boring. I actually have to say the fact that people know what I’m arguing for is worth something. I’d much rather spend five years campaigning for Cambridge, and for its values, and have people know and maybe disagree with some of what I say, than at the end of five years to have people say, well we have no idea who he was.