• Sun. Jul 14th, 2024

EIBF 2023: Chris Bryant and Isobel Hardman – the government we deserve?

ByLucy Jackson

Aug 27, 2023
Chris Bryant in portrait, smiling towards the camera in front of a grey background.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Never trust a politician. It’s one of the great assumptions of our political climate, and it’s true for many of the 650 sitting MPs we have in Westminster.

Yet after seeing my first show at the Edinburgh International Book Festival (EIBF), I can safely say that Chris Bryant MP is an exception to the rule.

‘Chris Bryant and Isobel Hardman – The Government We Deserve?’ gave audience members a deep insight into the inner mechanisms of parliament and the potential reforms required to create a fairer and more scrupulous legislative system.

The discussion, which took place between Bryant and Isobel Hardman – assistant editor of The Spectator – and which was chaired by Jenny Niven, incoming director of the EIBF, created a space for real change to be explored at a time when our parliament is one of the most corrupt in its history.

Talking about his new book, ‘Code of Conduct: Why We Need to Fix Parliament – and How to Do It’, Bryant explored the toxic and unwelcoming culture of Westminster, the inaccessibility of getting into politics, and the internal structure of parliament which restricts how much scrutiny a bill can get before it gets passed into law.

The discussion focused on the central themes of trust and accountability; Bryant was engaged and direct in his answers, with his deep knowledge of parliamentary history complementing his arguments around structural reform and change.

Yet the most interesting aspect was the dynamic between Bryant and Hardman, whose conversation served as a microcosm of the working relationship between politicians and journalists.

As someone aspiring to go into political journalism, it was fascinating to hear first-hand experiences of the sometimes uncomfortable and cosy relationships between the two professions, and about the boundaries that need to be established to maintain the trust of both your sources and the public.

Based on my rather biased view of The Spectator, perhaps I went into the event with presumptions about Hardman that weren’t entirely fair. In actuality, she was a fascinating speaker with a desire for real change and a real understanding of what politicians were actually thinking.

The event completely reshaped my understanding of politics and political reporting and has opened my eyes to the failings of Westminster that have been allowed to corrode and corrupt our society, all in the name of legacy.

Bryant’s book serves as a blueprint for democracy; I only hope that civilisation lasts long enough to see it in action.

‘Chris Bryant and Isobel Hardman – The Government We Deserve?’ was at Baillie Gifford Sculpture Court on August 22 at 8:30 pm.

Image ‘Official portrait of Chris Bryant’ by Chris McAndrew is licensed under CC BY 3.0.

By Lucy Jackson

President of The Student.