Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Memo to Future Speaker: Don't Get Rid of PMQs

I note that at least a couple of the candidates for Speaker, due to be chosen next Monday, are urging that PMQs be ended. I agree the weekly sessions seldom produce much clarity or elucidation of complexity and it also can resemble a farmyard, resonating with animal cries. I could also be argued that, being the most widely observed aspect of the Commons, have assisted the low opinion of politics by voters.

But I for one would be sad to see it go. Politics can be boring and inaccessible to the electorate; it is by nature complex and difficult. But PMQs
is an interlude in the week when a dash of colour,understandable to all, is added to the grey and sepia of public life. The gladiatorial aspect of the encounter can cause the baying and the pathetic attempts at soundbites, but at least we see our two major national leaders, facing up to each other in the theatre of the House of Commons. And wit and quickness of repartee is an indication of an important quality in my book.

How well the leaders perform is not of great moment to voters- Hague's brilliant showings against Blair, didn't help his poll ratings- but PMQs provides an opportunity for party leaders to rally their troops and inspire them for what should be a nationally important national debate on different ways to solve our problems. Other legislatures-I'm thinking of the Scandinavian ones especially- are incredibly dull and uninspiring. It is interesting also that PMQs is regularly watched in the USA on CSpan; across the Atlantic the president is never interrogated, challenged or even spoken to roughly by members of the legislature. Future Speakers, please don't deny our system one of its few unique and genuinely entertaining features.

I totally agree it can also give you a chance to see if the leader is up to the job, each time I see brown I think oh my god no no no.

Then I see Cameron and think mate you could have killed him destroyed him you did not why not, what is happening answer we have two leaders who are crap
PMQs as it stands is a fiasco. Unless the Speaker is going to insist that the Prime Minister answers the question they have been asked, and extend the Question Time by the amount of time they spend waffling about something else or repeating lists of "what we have done..." then it may as well be scrapped.

This started with Thatcher and has gone downhill ever since, to the extent that Brown almost never gives an answer, so Cameron uses it for grandstanding and gags.

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