I have made a study of flouncing. Some do it well and some don’t. The Scottish Nationalists got it wrong in Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday. The best flounce is at a table. You stand up, ostentatiously throw your napkin on the table, gaze down pityingly at your aggressor, turn on your heel and leave. Even this flounce is not risk free. One person I saw do this left his phone on the table and had to return and pick it up, which rather ruined the effect.
Flouncing from a TV studio mid interview is problematic. They usually shove a microphone up your shirt which in the heat of the moment the flouncer forgets. This results in about a yard of flounce, a sudden yank and an embarrassing minute or two disentangling wiring and retrieving electronic machinery that has been pulled to the floor.
In my experience the House of Commons is not a good place from which to flounce. A single flouncer ends his or her speech with a flourish of rhetoric and then has to squeeze past colleagues through the narrow foot space apologising for treading on toes or handbags.
Worse still is the group flounce. The first of these I saw was in about 2008 when the Liberal Democrats threw a hissy when they were foiled in their demands, ironically, for a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. Their former leader, the very decent Tim Farron, is self-deprecating enough to admit that their tortuous exit from the Chamber felt “shallow and pointless”.
Which brings me to yesterday. The Scottish Nationalists have made grievance an art form. They can find in everything a dark plot to do down Scotland. If the sun shines in England but it rains in Scotland, it is the fault of the Tories, the Act of Union and the entire panoply of the British state. Brexit actually means more powers for Holyrood and the Scottish Government but they have decided to pretend it doesn’t and so contrived to make their point by using an arcane Parliamentary device which involves asking for a vote on the House “meeting in private”. When this was not allowed until PMQs had finished, their well-prepared and choreographed flounce began. Though their ranks have thinned a bit since the last election they were too many for an effective indignant exit. It took too long and the inevitable stragglers looked embarrassed and silly. The remainder of PMQs included a number of Scottish Nationalists who were listed to ask a question, when, no doubt, they could have raised pithy points of grievance but, Banquo-like, were not there.
Flouncing should be left to the professionals. Hollywood divas not Holyrood dunces.