What a Ukip octogenarian can teach our frazzled MPs

Julian Huppert: Maybe riding a "Chinese motorcycle" might help?
Julian Huppert: Maybe riding a "Chinese motorcycle" might help?
Alex Stevenson By

Being a politician is not straightforward. In fact it can be a horrible mixture of hard work and hellish bullying from your peers. You need a thick skin to survive.

Here are three lessons to be taken about the perils of venturing into politics, variously scavenged from this morning's news stories, which just go to show our elected representatives are made of flesh and blood, after all.

1 - Politicians have to work hard

Resigning to spend more time with your family: usually the stock excuse of a scandal-hit minister.


No one could say that about Tom Harris, part of Hilary Benn's shadow frontbench team, who has decided the prospect of two years' hard graft in the run-up to the next general election just isn't for him.

"I was determined to take the boys to school, I was determined not to work at weekends," he told the Herald newspaper.

"But I could see that in the next two years shadow ministers are going to have to take on more work and I viewed that with some trepidation."

Abandoning his dreams of returning to power (he had worked in the Department for Transport for Tony Blair) is a tough choice to make - but, evidently, not that tough.

2 - Politicians get bullied by their peers

A thick skin is essential for anyone entering politics. If you're a Liberal Democrat, the thicker the better.

Even Nick Clegg doesn't face the barrage of hostility awaiting Julian Huppert when the "good doctor" from Cambridge stands up to speak in the Commons, though.

Poor old Huppert endured another tidal wave of scorn from MPs in prime minister's questions yesterday. He is met with vocal groans and even Hansard, the official recorder of parliamentary proceedings, was obliged to note honourable members observing: "Oh, no."

Now Huppert is presenting himself as a victim of bullying - which, of course, is exactly what this is. "I think it's an example of how badly behaved prime minister's questions are," he told the Times (£).

"There are people shouting and talking in a deeply discourteous way. It is perfectly reasonable to respond to what people are saying but I think the atmosphere is far too often [about] trying to shout down people and that's a very bad example for everybody."

Huppert has been called many nasty things but is no less irritating than hundreds of other MPs. The problem may lie in his personal appearance; Huppert looks even less like a Hollywood film star than most MPs. In the playground of the Commons, that's enough to get the crowd turning against you.

3 - Politicians can be surprised by success, too

If the two stories above have not yet induced even the mildest sense of sympathy for our poor political pals, perhaps this final tale might foster a greater appreciation for the fickle nature of politics.

Viv Lewis, described as a "bearded biker" by the West Briton newspaper, continues to be baffled by his elevation to Cornwall council for Ukip.

He had been asked to put his name down on the ballot paper but was not expecting to get elected. Especially when one prospective supporter phoned up and thought he was a woman.

"The only reason I can think of why I got in is that my Christian name is Vivian and that's what was printed on the ballot paper," he said.

"I think voters in Camborne thought I was a woman and I think a lot of people think women should be able to run things.

"Mrs Thatcher had been in the news a lot so that might have been in the back of their minds.

"I suspect this because someone rang Harry [a Ukip colleague] and asked what Mrs Lewis was like and Harry said, 'you will not like him because he has got a beard'."

Lewis is 82 years old and a great-grandfather, demonstrating that he has got his priorities right: family first, politics second.

There is not a chance of him getting bullied. Not just because of his venerable age but also because you just don't bully bikers.

Maybe if Huppert rode a "Chinese motorcycle" he would get less stick in the Commons... maybe.

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