Inside the Commons: what we learned from episode two

The second instalment of Michael Cockerell’s BBC2 documentary about the workings of Parliament revealed what David Cameron and Ed Miliband chat about between themselves… and whether it's OK to use rude words in the chamber


Tonight’s second instalment of Michael Cockerell’s revelatory programme about the House of Commons delivered more fascinating insights into the frankly bizarre workings of our Parliamentary democracy.


Following week one’s programme which lifted the lid on the plotting, the braying, the egos and self-regard of our MPs, tonight’s episode probably did little to enamour the general population to the politicians who supposedly serve us.

Here’s our handy highlights package of what we learned tonight…

What do Ed Miliband and David Cameron talk about when they are together…?

We have all seen the film of the Labour and Tory leaders shuffling out of the Commons and towards the Lords to hear the Queen deliver her speech for the State Opening of Parliament. Usually Messrs Cameron and Miliband seem to be getting on pretty well and the reason was explained tonight: they talk about things they actually like.

“David Cameron and I often talk about our families because we have both got young kids,” said Ed Miliband. “We compare notes on the struggle to combine being a politician with having a family life.”

How the ghost of Guy Fawkes still stalks Parliament…

There may be some wicked souls who think that Guy Fawkes had the right idea when he plotted to blow up Parliament 400 years ago. But the legacy of the C17th terrorist is still felt today. As we saw on tonight’s show, the Yeoman of the Guard (or Beefeaters to me and you) ritually parade through the cellars of the Commons on the day of the Queen’s speech checking for gunpowder and striking the ground. It was a rather touching moment which saw Commons Lock Keeper (yes, there is such a job) Peter Worsahlo nearly well up with emotion. “It goes back to Guy Fawkes,” he told us. “It’s more ceremonial now.” Well, let’s hope so…

You can say the word “penis” in the House of Commons…

Tory MP Penny Mordaunt (the one who took part in the TV reality show Splash!) was shown giving a speech in which she uses the words “penis” and testicles” – and she got away with it. Having consulted the Parliamentary authorities it was “concluded that they were…things that could be said”. So that’s a relief.

MPs waste a lot of time…

Tonight’s episode showed the rather unedifying spectacle of MPs filibustering – speaking at great length in the Chamber or Committee Rooms to “talk out” legislation that other MPs are keen to bring forward. Never mind the MPs’ expenses, the sight of the landed Tory Etonian Jacob Rees-Mogg smirking as he destroyed a private members bill designed to alleviate the pressures on the housing market probably wasn’t the smartest PR move….

“The Queen only has one nose…”

Well, this was what the head of lighting in the Lords said when he was trying to work out the best way of getting the right shadowing on the Monarch’s face during the State Opening of Parliament. So now we know…


Inside the Commons continues on BBC2 on Tuesdays at 9pm