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Sketch: Pete Wishart has an existential crisis

Credit: Iain Green

Sketch: Pete Wishart has an existential crisis

Pete Wishart is having an existential crisis. The SNP MP’s day had started out as usual – he woke up to his alarm clock blasting Runrig (the ones he plays on, naturally), he fired off a few tweets about how rubbish the Tories are, he said his affirmations into the mirror (“I still believe in the SNP, Humza is great, Nicola was the best”), and he headed off to start his working day.

Only when he arrived at Westminster did he learn he would be chairing a session of the Scottish Affairs Committee with some youths. And not just any youths – members of the Scottish Youth Parliament (MSYPs). On one side of the room sat a group of active, intelligent, and enthusiastic political operators. On the other were the MPs.

Wishart begins the session by admitting he’s not really sure who they are. He asks the MSYPs to explain to “dopey Westminster MPs who don’t spend too long looking at briefs” what they do.

And that’s when the crisis hits him. Listening to the passionate young voices, it dawns on the Wishart that it’s been a long time since he’s enjoyed his job. Here are some people young enough to be his grandchildren, speaking with enthusiasm about children’s rights and education and climate change. And here he is, stuck in a routine that, if he’s truly honest, he’s become a bit bored with.

Wishart is stunned. So stunned, in fact, that he’s quiet for several minutes

The MP can’t understand it. “Why on earth would you want to do this? A few of us have been here for quite a long time and we ask ourselves that question every day.”

Indeed, why on earth is Wishart doing this? The general election is looming, and he’s said he’ll stand again, but for the life of him he can’t seem to remember why. Has he lost his mojo? Did he ever have it? What has he done with his life since being a musician?

He simply can’t fathom why anyone would want to do politics. Unless… “Would your ambition be to get to the other side of this horseshoe?” he wonders. The salary isn’t bad, after all, and there’s a fairly generous expenses and pension scheme. And you occasionally get on TV, too. Maybe these young people want to be more like him.

Except, no. The young people don’t want to be more like him, they say. They like the idea of getting into politics to change things, for a start. These young folk have no desire to become dopey Westminster MPs.

She says there is one (yes, one) 'kind and considerate' Labour MP

Wishart is stunned. So stunned, in fact, that he’s quiet for several minutes. The usually bombastic chair of the committee even lets Douglas Ross in, for once uninterrupted.

Meanwhile, the modern studies teachers in the room are beaming with pride. Anum Qaisar and Michael Shanks love to see engaged kids. It must have been so rare in their classrooms.

Shanks wonders if there is anything the adults can learn from the youngsters. “Have you any reflections maybe for us on how your decision-making might be more productive than our decision-making?” he asks. “Do you still fall out with one another, do you still argue?” Parties of all colours should take note on how to disagree without completely imploding.

Qaisar senses a teaching moment. “We don’t all hate each other,” she tells the youths. She says there is one (yes, one) “kind and considerate” Labour MP who has become a “really good friend”. Who says all politicians hate one another?

Christine Jardine acknowledges that “we don’t always behave very well in parliament”. So she wonders if the kids really want to engage with MPs. “Do we do you more of a service by leaving you alone?” Would they be better off without the adults who have managed to bring about catastrophic climate change, a cost-of-living crisis, and done nothing to leave the world a better place?

David Duguid is aggrieved. “We often feel as mature, advanced in years, whatever you want to call us, older people…”

“Codgers is the word you’re looking for, David,” offers a helpful colleague.

Duguid continues as though uninterrupted. “It often feels that people like yourself see us as, we just don’t get it, or we just don’t care. That bothers me sometimes, because not only do I care what happens to you guys, I care passionately about what happens to my own children and what their futures are going to be like.”

Ah yes, the old ‘I care about children because I have children’ response. Children deserve respect because they are someone’s son, someone’s daughter, someone’s grandchild. Not people in their own right… To be fair, he is part of a party that thinks only the first two children in a family shouldn’t be in poverty. Third child? Nah, fend for yourself.

Wishart eventually stirs when the question of political impartiality – something he knows nothing about – is raised. How can you be involved in all these political issues and yet set aside party politics, he asks, genuinely baffled.

“It’s easier than you think,” replies one MSYP. Wishart may take a few days to recover.

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Read the most recent article written by Louise Wilson - Sketch: Fergus Ewing is on the wind-up.

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