The political mating game

16th March 2001 at 00:00
MEMBERUS Parliamentarus is a peculiar beast. For four years of its extraordinarily long mating cycle it is remarkable mainly for its sloth, moving robotically in herds behind the closely related but more aggressive groups of Parliamentarus Ministerialis and Constituensus Electorarum. As the long cycle comes to its end, however, the MP suddenly launches into outlandish spasms and, overcome by a mating frenzy, scampers after Constituensus Electorara in a desperate attempt to breed a new generation of Ministerialis Parliamentarus. The unsuccessful, sadly, will be excluded from the herd to perish in the wilderness (see Peerus Parliamentarus and Quango Chieftus).

Quiet for four years, MPs are letting out tell-tale ylps (known as "parliamentary questions") indicating a mating season is imminent. A classic example was Labour MP Helen Jones's question asking "the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will set out, with statistical information relating to the Warrington North constituency, the effects on Warrington North of his department's policies since May 2, 1997". In other words: "Oh no! I've got an election pamphlet to write!" Such desperately generalised queries took up much of this week's education question time, with some MPs getting their pamphlets virtually written for them by civil servants, and other less favoured souls (including Helen) sent packing to the library to do their own research.

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