David Maddox: MPs’ minds appear to be drifting

Nigel Mills was playing Candy Crush Saga during a committee hearing in the Commons. Picture: PA

Nigel Mills was playing Candy Crush Saga during a committee hearing in the Commons. Picture: PA

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OVER the years various MPs have come to a sticky end in honey traps but this week has seen a new first, with a Tory backbencher caught in a “candy crush”.

For those who don’t have this phenomenon on their phone or tablet, candy crush does not involve a young woman telling all to a national newspaper but is a game designed to wile away boring hours.

This may be why Amber Valley MP Nigel Mills, who has until now not attracted much attention from the media, was playing the game while he was supposed to be listening to pensions experts during a committee hearing in the Commons.

While many may sympathise with Mr Mills over being forced to listen to pension experts, the episode has raised the question over what standard of behaviour we expect of our MPs, who are paid a decent salary to take issues like our pensions seriously.

The same question was even more strongly put when it emerged last month that another Tory MP, Portsmouth South’s Penny Mordaunt, had held a debate on hen welfare so she could use the word ‘cock’ [five times] in the House as a result of a dare from some Royal Marines.

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Neither Mills nor Mordaunt have been caught in a serious sex scandal or for that matter fiddled their expenses or offered their political services for money, but nevertheless they have both come in for a lot of criticism for essentially wasting precious Commons time and not taking their jobs seriously.

Both stories raise the question over whether the public want their MPs to be like Caesar’s wife – “above reproach” – or to be like ordinary human beings.

Mr Mills would not be the first person to play a digital game when he should be doing his work. Desk-bound office workers across the land will know that feeling. Meanwhile, daring people to do daft things is not a rare occurrence either - although the aim, usually, is to not get caught doing it. Interestingly, the Prime Minister appears to have seen the funny side with Ms Mordaunt and not sacked her from her junior local government ministerial job where a few were looking on her as a potential rising star.

With Mr Mills, the parliamentary authorities have taken a far more prudish line and, amazingly, have launched an investigation into who might have exposed the game-playing rather than suggesting any reprimand for the MP himself.

The two incidents both suggest a certain boredom in politics at the moment. Maybe it is reflected by the current weak leadership and lack of big personalities. That at least looks set to change with the potential arrival of Alex Salmond, Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson in May next year.

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