Herald letter – Clapping In the Commons (No £)

WHEN Stalin visited the Bolshoi Theatre, the assembled comrades in the audience would rise to their feet and literally applaud for their lives: during the Terror, no-one dared to be first to be seen stopping their ovation. Such displays would go on for a very long time indeed.

It is easy to see the risk that applause in the House of Commons could become excessive in a similar way, although prompted by the raw ambition and abject sycophancy of MPs rather than mortal fear. Press reports will certainly record the number, duration and volume of ostentatious demonstrations of acclaim, as is already the case at party conferences and in the United States Congress. This would no doubt also contribute to some very tedious ovation inflation.

It is probably better that we keep the convention of restricting routine approval in the Commons to “hear, hears” and the waving of Order Papers. Like many elements of the UK and our constitution, it may be a bit eccentric, but while it works, there is no need to fix it when the alternatives are worse.

Peter A Russell,

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