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Prime Ministers Questions

53 replies

Onetwothreeoops · 23/02/2014 09:31

BBC link

It really is time our politicians stopped behaving like children, it's a national embarrassment. Well done Ed for tackling this.

OP posts:
claig · 23/02/2014 09:45

I disagree. It is about free speech and open criticism which are vital to our democracy. I don't want dissent to be stifled.

'In an interview with Radio 4's The World This Weekend, Mr Miliband said: "I think it was President Obama who said you can disagree without being disagreeable'

I don't agree with this we're "all in it together", cosy chums' disagreement.
Does this mean that Pickles will not be allowed to beastly to New Labour and the luvvies who have landed us in the mess we are in? Does this mean that Pickles will never again be allowed off his chain?

"the House of Commons Speaker wrote to party leaders urging them to clamp down on "yobbery and public school twittishness"."

If One Nation Labour MPs wish to behave like that, then I don't see what it has got to do with the Speaker. He is already allowed to rebuke them. Does he want to gag them too?

I don't think party leaders should stifle the voice of MPs who are representing their constituents. If MPs wish to beastly to New Labour, then that seems admirable to me.

Onetwothreeoops · 23/02/2014 10:26

The embarrassing behaviour is not limited to one political party nor has it anything to do with free speech. It's more to do with behaving in a manner becoming of the position they are ALL representing.

If my children behaved like in the way I have seen these idiots behave they would be sent to their bedroom until they were ready to apologise and play nicely.

I cringe thinking how the rest of the world must view us based on what we are broadcasting from the House of Commons.

OP posts:
longfingernails · 23/02/2014 10:35


PMQs is an event where ideology and pure political values come to the fore; rather than technocratic managerialism. The British public watches and listens to PMQs more than any other regular Parliamentary programme.

Politics should be full of passion. Socialism and conservatism hate each other, viscerally and deeply. They are fundamentally different visions of society. That should be represented in the most prominent forum for politics in this country.

claig · 23/02/2014 10:37

'If my children behaved like in the way I have seen these idiots behave they would be sent to their bedroom until they were ready to apologise and play nicely.'

Yes, but these MPs are adults. They have PPEs. I think it is about freedom. They are not children and shouldn't be treated as such. The Speaker already has the power to remove them from the Chamber if needed. I don't think they should feel under pressure to behave in a way that may stifle real opposition. Opposition is vital for democracy or the while thing becomes just a pantomime.

The childish behaviour is part of free expression and free expression is vital for democracy.

A sanitised, regulated, prescriptive requirement for behaviour will lead to less real opposition.

claig · 23/02/2014 10:39

Well said, longfingernails.

PMQs is the only thing I watch from Parliament and I don't want Pickles to be confined to his kennel anymore - I want him set loose.

claig · 23/02/2014 10:45

'I cringe thinking how the rest of the world must view us based on what we are broadcasting from the House of Commons.'

They love it. They have nothing like it. In America, they show it on Cspan or PBS, and US viewers love it. It has the passion and spark and fireworks that enliven politics and make for riveting viewing and they have nothing like it. It is almost unique to us in the whole world and is a fantastic part of our traditions.

The Americans loived to watch Thatcher wipe the floor with Kinnock or whatever socialist they put up to face her.

UnderYourCommand · 23/02/2014 10:46

It's nothing to do with free speech, dissent, passion etc. Only a fool would think it is. It's tactical, planned, and orchestrated to avoid the questions that individuals and parties want avoiding, so they kick up a stink to divert attention.

claig · 23/02/2014 10:51

Yes, UnderYourCommand, there is a planned element, but the beauty of it is that things don't go to plan in the midst of the maelstrom that is real debate.

Thatcher wiped the floor with Kinnock week in week out. However much Kinnock planned, his plans never worked, and that is why the public tunes in - to see who comes out on top in a real debate that deviates from any preprepared plans and scripts.

claig · 23/02/2014 10:53

I agree that we should cut out all the scripted preprepared questions such as "Would the Prime Minister like to congratulate my constituency ..." and there should instead be more time for the leaders to go hammer and tongs at each other, and if possible Pickles should be allowed to join in and liven it up.

UnderYourCommand · 23/02/2014 10:54

and it's nothing unique - other parliaments get into fist fights and pushing and shoving. Pathetic foolery. US viewers aren't even generally aware of other countries so the notion of them 'liking' PMQs is an empty one. The best that could be said is that it's 'entertainment value' for a handful of Yanks? Not much of an ambition is it?

longfingernails · 23/02/2014 10:58

Of course it's partially pre-planned - so what? It shows democracy at its most vibrant. If you're deeply interested in legislation for bathplug regulation, you can watch the debate specifically about that.

On the other hand, if you want to understand the values which drive the main party leaders of our age, you watch PMQs.

On whether it should exist at all, rather than just talking about the format - of course Prime Ministers naturally hate them - and so they should. But it has the side effect that the PM is briefed in detail on every nook and cranny of government policy beforehand. Informed leadership cannot be a bad thing.

AnitaBlake · 23/02/2014 10:59

It was even better before Blair limited it to once a week (used to be tues and thurs) and MPs were allowed two questions but only one was presented in advance!

We used to be there twice a week on tenterhooks watching to see who came off worst :)

UnderYourCommand · 23/02/2014 11:03

It shows democracy at its most vibrant - errant nonsense. That should lie in mass participation, high electoral turnouts, high involvement of young people, ideological debate etc. You knuckle-draggers would appear to have little interest in the operation of politics.

longfingernails · 23/02/2014 11:05

Yes, agree AnitaBlake. The old format was better. And Maggie was much better in the Commons than any of the pretenders to the Prime Ministership since.

claig · 23/02/2014 11:11

I don't agree much with Michael White, political editor of the Guardian, says, but he is spot on on this one

"Why we should cherish prime minister's questions

Rowdy and undignified, it's the bear pit of British politics. But in the age of 24/7 TV news, instant blogging and Twitter, a strong performance at PMQs has never been more vital"


Apart from entertaining the sketchwriters, does the weekly session of political mud-wrestling matter? As with John Major, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown before him, Cameron has deplored its rowdy, Punch-and-Judy qualities . They all look back nostalgically to a golden age of scholarly exchanges between gents and promise to do better, at least in the early stages of their rule. Cameron is only the latest prime minister to acknowledge defeat.

Does it matter? Of course it matters."


"cerebral Arthur Balfour could complain that answering questions on "trifling subjects" wasted "the best hour of the day". Worse, it was undignified, stirred up friction and personal abuse – complaints still heard in 2011.

Typical of an intellectual, Balfour missed the point which Thatcher would forcefully articulate in her memoirs. PMQs were "the real test of your authority in the House, your standing with your party, your grip of policy and of the facts to justify it," she wrote. Few heads of government are so accountable, as she liked to point out at EU summits. Few fellow-summiteers "know where their parliaments are," she once snapped.

In her day the ordeal was twice-weekly, at the fixed time of 3.15 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays for 15 minutes"


in his final speech there Blair admitted he had "always feared" it."

It is a real test for them and they fear it, but it keeps them on their toes and lets the public see what is behind their mask.

Of course, they want to change it and make it polite and gag Pickles. But the people want to see democracy in action, and Thatcher would not hear of changing it for one second.

longfingernails · 23/02/2014 11:13

claig Sorry, I don't see what Eric Pickles has to do with PMQs. For all his fine qualities, he is never going to be PM.

longfingernails · 23/02/2014 11:16

UnderYourCommand Tou're right, democracy is far more than Parliament. I should have said it shows Parliamentary politics at its most vibrant.

PMQs is not about details of policy (though woe betide the PM or opposition leader who doesn't have facts at their fingertips!). It's a proving ground, to test mettle and leadership.

And it's extremely entertaining too!

claig · 23/02/2014 11:18

I'm joking about Pickles. I hink he has disappeared from our screens after he slightly criticised some people over the floods, and I am using that as an example of not restricting anyone's views or letting "politeness" shut down criticism.

claig · 23/02/2014 11:29

And the reforms that they want to make for PMQs will most probably apply to all other debates too - important debates about going to war or over expenses or regulation of our free press.

It is a slippery slope trying to control debate and could damage our democracy whie making it easier for the technocratic leaders who don't wish to face the same accountability and scrutiny that Thatcher expected and relished.

JanineStHubbins · 23/02/2014 11:35

PMQs profoundly irritate me: not so much for the noise and rowdiness as for the fact that the PM never answers a bloody question. It's hardly holding the gov to account f questions are NEVER answered.

On rowdiness, the UK parliament has yet to match the spectacle of an Irish TD shouting 'FUCK YOU' at one of his fellow TDs. link here

longfingernails · 23/02/2014 11:37

Cameron is not the first PM to avoid answering the question. Messrs Blair and Brown were not too shabby at it either... It's bad strategy though. Better to acknowledge whatever obscure "failure" the LOTO is bringing up, and then justify it - than to avoid the issue altogether.

Auntimatter · 23/02/2014 11:41

PMQs epitomises everything that is wrong with politics: all about shouting, rudeness, avoiding the question and trying to be clever. It is a disgrace.

The idea of holding the PM to account by weekly questioning is excellent. There is no reason at all for it to be accompanied by the behaviour of obnoxious teenagers.

JanineStHubbins · 23/02/2014 11:45

No, Cameron isn't the first to avoid answering - but he does it in an adolescent whataboutery sort of way. Blair was, I think, better at disguising the non-answer.

claig · 23/02/2014 11:50

JanineStHubbins, but that is a good thing because you can see Cameron under pressure and you can see him avoiding answering and draw your conclusions.

Auntimatter · 23/02/2014 12:05

How is it a good thing that politicians don't answer the question? It's answers that are wanted not "guess what his non-answer means". Especially as everyone guesses something different.

If they don't know the answer then written follow-up should be fine.

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