Do you shake hands?

Do you shake hands? Lots of us do, especially when we meet for the first time, or if we bump into someone we haven't seen for a while. It's a simple piece

Do you shake hands? Lots of us do, especially when we meet for the first time, or if we bump into someone we haven't seen for a while. It's a simple piece of good manners, like remembering to say please and thank you; an everyday gesture of respect which is so common that most of us don't notice we're doing it.But not in Parliament. MPs, oddly, almost never shake hands. It's regarded as extremely bad manners, particularly if you shake hands with someone from your own political party.The reason, apparently, is that shaking hands started off as a way of proving you weren't carrying a weapon. Centuries ago, you'd offer an open right hand as a way of establishing trust with someone you'd only just met. It was a way if checking they weren't about to knife you. So nowadays, if you offer to shake hands with an MP you know well, it's an insult because you're implying they might stab you in the back. I doubt anyone knows whether the story is historically accurate. I doubt it somehow, if only because you wouldn't last long once the first of your enemies learnt how to hold a knife in their left hand. But I'm certain it's a lousy way of deciding who to trust in modern politics, no matter which political party you're in. The effect on MPs is very peculiar too. If you can't shake hands when you meet someone, what should you do? Pretend you're French and kiss them on both cheeks? High-five them like an American? I suspect some of the crustier MPs would have a fit if you tried either one, so most MPs use a half-hearted and slightly self-conscious wave instead. It's bizarre, but then nobody ever claimed that Westminster is normal.


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