In praise of heckling the President

What’s the big deal? The prime minister takes worse abuse in the Commons every day.

I was going to write a column on the whole “You Lie” non-scandal, but Alex Massie of the Daily Beast does it with more wit and vim than I would have managed. The nutshell: What’s the big deal? In a parliamentary system, the prime minister takes worse abuse in the Commons every day. The genius of our system is that we’ve institutionalised opposition to the government of the day — we give it an official title and residence, special privileges, and sometimes even call it a “government in waiting”.

The key, of course, is the separation of head of government and head of state:

Insulting Queen Elizabeth is one thing; insulting Gordon Brown is practically an obligation. Disrespecting the former is an act of treason; disrespecting the latter and his office, a necessity: Every Wednesday, Brown must endure Prime Minister’s Questions, during which his enemies in Parliament grill him. Prime Minister’s Questions may not be the be all and end all, but it affords an opportunity for “telling truth to power” that does not exist in the regal American system.

Americans are a bunch of wusses.