As we know, Britain is in the messy midst of an existential crisis of its own making — to Brexit or not to Brexit.

This is compounded by a hamstrung prime minister, who — to mix metaphors — hoisted herself by her own petard in an early election she vowed never to call.

Being so hoisted is proving a painful experience, as Theresa May's unsightly public squirming continues to demonstrate. Worse than being reviled for hypocrisy and ineffectuality is being lampooned and turned into a figure of fun.

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Newly nicknamed "Maybot" for her mechanically relentless delivery of hollow clichés that seem to reference some parallel universe, one wonders why on earth she clings on.

Is it the prestige? It can't be that — she's managed to turn No 10 Downing St into a glorified Punch and Judy booth she occasionally sticks her head out of. Is it the money and dress allowance? Could be, I suppose — extra brass is always handy, and she seems to sport a different outfit for every public humiliation. Or perhaps she's just a masochist.
On which subject, given the charade of her government, the general public probably wouldn't be too much more fazed if her entire front bench were to turn out in suspenders and fishnet stockings.

Mind you, as far as both the masochism and fishnets are concerned, these are areas in which the police records show the Tories can at least boast previous good form. Perhaps Theresa should suggest it at the next Cabinet meeting — it may assist her ministers' performance in the House if they're feeling relaxed wearing favoured recreational garb.
But the long and short is that it's all pretty shambolic. The British House of Commons, therefore, wouldn't currently be most people's first choice as to where to look for a spot of role-modelling.

Yet there is one area where perhaps our local House of Representatives could take a lead: the Brits' House of Commons is very economical with its seating arrangements.

Frank Greenall
Frank Greenall

In EnZed, we figuratively talk of Treasury benches, cross-benches, back benches and so forth, but over there, they really are benches.

No arm rests, buttock demarcations, or such like — just ranks of benches, with Government and Opposition packed in cheek-by-jowl in serried rows, all clutching their papers in their hot little hands because there's nowhere else to put them.

This is as it should be. As in most parliaments, there are always going to be those accused of being a waste of space, but at least with the British model the space in question is admirably minimal. It's cattle class, in fact, and rightly so.

By contrast, our Wellington version resembles an upgrade to business, if not first, class. Members enjoy sumptuous roll-armed, padded, individual armchairs that look as though — at the press of a button — they could convert into fully reclining sleeping pods complete with en-suite. We know, in fact, that they're often used for this very purpose, with honourable members frequently nodding off, button or no button.


Partially shielding these lavish recliners is a sort of workstation-cum-lectern arrangement, with a half-desk and storage compartments. Ostensibly, these are to facilitate members' parliamentary business, but in reality their main function is to mask more covert operations such as doing the Dominion Post crossword, researching comics, or cellphone surfing.

The lectern compartments also look capacious enough to hold the complete works of Immanuel Kant, should members seek some light relief from turgid goings-on in the chamber. Or, given that there seems to be a bevy of babies on board these days, be pressed into service as stop-gap nappy changing stations.

At least the latter function would provide a reminder of the oft-observed close relationship between members and babies' diapers — that for the health of all concerned, they should both be changed regularly, and for the same reason.