MP's idle gaming another Crushing blow to politicians' popularity
Tory Nigel Mills’ move to play a mobile game during a Commons committee session has done nothing to ease public cynicism of the political classes
For one company, it was PR you couldn’t buy – but for a distracted MP, the same firm’s puzzle game unleashed a flood of hot water.
On Monday, Tory MP Nigel Mills issued an apology for playing – or being caught playing – Candy Crush Saga during a Commons Public Accounts Committee hearing. Pictures and video of the MP idly toying with his iPad were published in the Sun and Mr Mills told the paper he “probably had a game or two” during the session, but would “try not to do it” again. Observers claimed that he played the game over a period of two-and-a-half hours during the committee’s trawl through evidence on the impact of pension reforms.
Following a barrage of news coverage, Mills – possibly under added pressure from the media exposure – fine-tuned his regrets by saying: “I apologise unreservedly for my behaviour at the committee meeting and realise it fell short of what is expected of a Member of Parliament. I guarantee it will not happen again.”
The Guardian reported the story with a reference to the “tiny majority” he has in the Derbyshire seat of Amber Valley, and pointed out that “bookmakers have said the MP is odds on to lose his seat to Labour”.
However, the prime minister had Mills’ back, describing him as “very hard-working”, and Conservative MP Sir Edward Leigh commented: “I survived nine years as chairman of the Public Accounts Committee and I just about managed not to go to sleep and not to play computer games – it was boring!”
In a curious twist, House of Commons authorities are now investigating the episode – not with a view to looking at Mills’ actions, but those of the person who filmed him, because the filming was apparently a breach of Parliamentary rules and could lead to a ban.
During the run up to a General Election – at a time when politicians’ popularity in general is on the floor – MPs would do well to keep an eye on their own behaviour in case it further damages their chances at the polls.
As for Candy Crush Saga, it was the most downloaded free mobile app of 2013 – and this episode is likely to help it repeat the feat in the rankings for 2014.
Will Edwards is managing director of media training consultancy Bluewood Training.