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Prime Minister’s questions is now the pits and needs radical reform

cameron as flashman copyI asked Cameron at PMQs yesterday a question showing that Osborne’s boasted ‘recovery’ was no such thing.

Is the PM aware that, according to the Economist, Britain is now 159th lowest in the world in terms of business investment, just behind Mali, Paraguay and Guatemala? Could he therefore tell the House when, under his esteemed leadership and that of the Chancellor, Britain might now expect to catch up with Mali?”

Cameron’s reply descended to a depth I don’t recall ever witnessing at PMQs over the last 40 years, referring to me as sounding like someone on mind-altering substances like the Rev. Paul Flowers. When I protested on a point of order that this was an unjustified, rude and offensive way to refer to another parliamentarian, he pretended it was just banter but very ungraciously withdrew his remark.

The real point in all this is that the nation expects a Prime Minister to behave with the dignity and propriety of his office and not get drawn into saloon bar insults. Cameron at PMQs is falling further and further below this standard and sounds increasingly like a fairground bruiser rather than a Prime Minister.

Partly because of Cameron’s style – at times patronising, arrogant, insolent and dismissive – PMQs in no longer fit for purpose. It brings Parliament into disrepute by its noisy rowdiness, its gladiatorial atmosphere turns the public off, and the only people who gain are the parliamentary sketch-writers whose relentless iconoclasm and trivialised obsession with personalities drag down politics to inconsequence and farce. So what should be done to try to restore PMQs to its proper role as a forum for serious discussion of the country’s key issues? I think there are four reforms which should produce a big improvement.

There is a strong argument for reverting to the system of closed questions (i.e. a specific question is asked and recorded on the Order Paper, as in the case of all other Departmental questions) that always existed before Thatcher changed it to open questions (i.e. an MP can answer any question on anything). This latter system, which no individual and not even a versatile Prime Minister can handle with precision, leads to woolly answers filled out with party abuse. Closed questions would concentrate minds much more on serious scrutiny of an issue.

Second, we should also restore the pre-Blair pattern of two PMQ sessions per week, each of 15 minutes, rather than a single session of 30 minutes. Blair changed it to the latter practice because he didn’t want to have to attend Parliament more than once a week. But that has the drawback that it raises the temperature and the noise much more than if there were two shorter sessions.

Third, over the recent period the cacophony at PMQs has become deafening (worse in the Chamber than on TV where directed microphones pick out the voice more clearly). The Speaker tries repeatedly to control the noise volume. He should give notice that he will in future ‘name’ MPs who are excessively noisy, and then when he does, it should mean expulsion from the House for a week (or more). And fourth, if noise levels repeatedly exceed acceptable standards, he should be prepared in extreme circumstances to suspend a sitting for half an hour or more until the House quietens down. He should not have to exercise these measures more than a few times to raise PMQs from its present appearance sometimes as a cross between the football terraces and a Nazi rally.


  1. John Reid says:

    God wins law Was a joke,and keep on believing you have a better solution for the economy, you’ll bein for a nasty suprise come the election,

  2. Fair points Michael;But since Milliband wiped the floor with Cameron @ PMQs over electricity prices and subsequently over the weekly rising cost of living the Tories are in a real panic, daily attacks of diorrhea @ their poll ratings ,static @ 30% and Labour advancing, despite the media going all out to try and get the Tory propaganda over about the so called growing economy. They thought they had hit paydirt over the scandal with Flowers & the Coop Bank, but if Labour don’t crucify them with such gifts as the clip on Newsnight last night of (that slimy rat) Osbourne pushing the Coop Bank bid for the 600+ branches of Lloyds Bank and lobbying Brussels to give the go-ahead when the Lloyds bid contravened EU anti monopoly regulations, & then ED Balls ripping the **** out of Osbourne, asking over the floor of the House wether he had ever taken cocaine, pure comedy gold(and imho if any Labour MP or Shadow Minister has indulged in any of this shit in the past,present or future then they forfeit any chance of a career) particularly after Camerons smart-arse, snide comments about Meacher being on mind altering substances, then they don’t deserve to be in the HoCs never mind an alternative government.
    As has been said on here and elsewhere the very fact that Cameron and the Tories have brought that pale Aussie imitation of Karl Rove, Linton Crosbie, shows that the election campaign is under way, and the subterranean depths that they are prepared to sink to. Which should be no surprise to anyone in the Labour movement.

  3. Chris says:

    “keep on believing you have a better solution for the economy, you’ll bein for a nasty suprise come the election,”

    I like how you don’t even try to back up this assertion. The standards of Tory thinking (and typing) have rarely been lower.

  4. John Reid says:

    Chris if you read here you’d know, I’m a Labour Party member, o.k I didn’t explain how I feel that labour won’t win the next election, maybe because we were 15% ahead in 1982′ 1986 and 1990 and didn’t win.

  5. swatantra says:

    A Govt is only as good as the Opposition it faces; so it doesn’t say much for the Opposition, does it?

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