US senator John McCain, snapped this week playing poker on his iPhone during a key hearing about military intervention in Syria, has just added his name to the growing list of lawmakers around the world caught whiling away an uninspiring moment in the chamber with their mobile device.
At least McCain, the Republican party presidential candidate in 2008, could laugh it off: “Scandal! Caught playing iPhone game at 3+ hour Senate hearing — worst of all I lost!” he tweeted.
Others have not been so fortunate. Three Indian politicians from the conservative Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party resigned last year after being filmed watching porn clips on a mobile phone during a session of the state parliament. They had initially insisted they were not “enjoying” the video so did not need to step down, while one said he was trying to turn the phone off at the time.
Similarly implausible excuses abound. When Simeone di Cagno Abbrescia, a 66-year-old, thrice-married Italian member of parliament, was spotted two years ago browsing pictures of escort girls on his government-issue iPad during a no-confidence vote, he insisted he was “looking at my e-mail messages when a window popped up. We only received the iPads a month ago and my fingers slipped as I was looking for the news pages.”
A Thai MP, Pongpan Sunthornchai, caught ogling photographs of women in swimsuits on his iPad during an important debate on the transport costs of rice, likewise pleaded technological ineptitude.
The Bangkok Post said he “pressed the wrong link and accidentally got sexy pictures. Then the wrong link again, and got more raunch. He tried again and again, and he kept getting sexy photos. It was all so confusing.”
He now wanted to return his iPad, he said.
French MPs have also been snapped making online poker bets, playing chess, reading adult cartoons, browsing clothing catalogues and placing orders for fine wines on their iPads and smartphones.
Back in the US, Florida state senator Mike Bennett was left red-faced when a cameraman filmed him looking at a picture of topless women on his laptop during a state abortion debate.
Thankfully in the UK, the Mother of Parliaments — where handheld devices may be used in the Chamber “provided that they are silent, and used in a way that does not impair decorum” — has yet to witness such indignities.
Although with a prime minister alleged to spend “a crazy, scary amount of time playing Fruit Ninja on his iPad,” it can surely only be a matter of time.