25 Jun 2017

The Anatomy of a Question

From The House, 7:32 am on 25 June 2017

It was a tumultuous week in Parliament’s debating chamber, with a refreshed scandal ultimately ending a career. So this week The House used one afternoon’s action to analyse a few of the strategies and rules behind the ruckus.

You’ll really need to listen to the audio story for this one, it’s one of those example and discussion things.

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Bill English answers a question about Todd Barclay. Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

But for background consider that the broadcasts of Parliament don’t give you a true sense of the volume the chamber can reach on a fractious day.  Listening to the radio or watching the TV broadcasts all those interjecting are not near a working microphone and many are only faintly audible.

But inside the House it can make it difficult to hear, but it also adds a real energy to the occasion. It s well worth visiting the gallery and experiencing it first-hand.

On Tuesday, when the week’s sessions kicked off with a roar, the galleries were populated with high school students, plus a delegation from the Mexican Parliament. The local high school students sat wide eyed and very obviously fascinated. They looked like they were taking a sudden interest in spectator politics - being as it was like verbal cage fighting.

On the other hand - the Mexican delegation, sitting in the Speaker’s Gallery, may have found it refreshingly controlled. Their own parliament has been known to break into actual fisticuffs.

The cause of all the energy was a breaking scandal surrounding the National MP for Clutha Southland, Todd Barclay (after fresh details from The Newsroom on accusations from last year).

Most importantly, the new details dragged the Prime Minister into the scandal - and the opposition (as well as the media), smelled blood.