The most popular book among UK parliamentarians tells them the best place in Westminster to commit adultery, how to fob off bothersome constituents and which room you have to go to if you don’t want to miss a key vote.
How To Be an MP, a wry insider’s guide, was the most borrowed book in the House of Commons library last year. The tome, penned by long-serving Labour MP Paul Flynn and published in 2012, was taken out 19 times through the course of the year, five more than any other, according to a response to a Freedom of Information request made by Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper.
Chapters include “How to convince voters that the MP never stops working”, “How to Climb the Greasy Pole” and “How to write an Abusive Letter”.
The latter advises the following sign-off when writing back to particularly persistent constituents: “Thank you for your communication, which I placed in my insane letters file.”
Flynn also writes that flings are “inevitable”, noting that “serial seducers of both sexes roam the corridors.”
Among the possible locations suggested for secretive encounters is the “sinfully comfortable” Pugin Room, but not the MPs Smoking Room, described as a “melange of gentleman’s club and geriatric home, a refuge for alcohol addicts”.
Flynn said the book, which also paints unflattering portraits of some of his (unnamed) colleagues, is meant as a satire, intended to nudge MPs into acting more ethically. It can also serve as a straight guide to questionable practices.
Incidentally, despite this, House-savvy Flynn himself was suspended from Parliament for a day last year for “gross disorderly manner” after accusing the Conservative Defence Minister Philip Hammond of lying.
Worryingly, or reassuringly for UK voters, the second most-popular book on the MPs borrowing list is Robert Rogers How Parliament Works, another guide, although a more scholarly one. It promises in its blurb to explain a democratic process that is “a mystery to outsiders and is sometimes perplexing even to its own members”.
The rules of UK parliament, known as Standing Orders, are contained in a 496-page volume, known casually as Erskine-May, which costs more than $400 to purchase – even for MPs themselves. Critics dismiss many of the Orders as complex and arcane. Insiders have frequently admitted that a lack of familiarity with them can lead to failing to receive a salary (if one doesn’t queue to swear an ancient oath of loyalty) and voting for the wrong side (if one confuses which of the special “voting rooms” to enter after a law is debated).
And it is not just outdated rituals that cause trouble.
The internal regulations concerning personal expenses seemed to baffle UK parliamentarians in 2010, when more than half of the 650 members were forced to repay money they claimed unethically or illegally.
Paul Flynn writes of the expenses watchdog, IPSA, that "It should be humanely put down, buried under a slab of concrete never to rise again from its dishonoured grave. But until that happens, you'll just have to live with it."
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