Comment | We need the pomp and pantomime of PMQs
Prime Ministers Questions come once a week and whether you’re a political novice or expert, they should always be an essential watch. Prime Ministers Questions, often referred to as PMQs, often come under fire as a waste of parliamentary time in which the leader of the opposition and the Prime Minister go head to head to try and embarrass one another, rather than actually solving the country’s problems. Every Wednesday, in a display of pure theatre, David Cameron and Ed Miliband go at it hammer and tongs like any old political enemies. Some call the almost bitchy nature of PMQs childish, but it can’t only be me who enjoys this aspect.
Watching Cameron argue that Miliband’s decision to change energy suppliers in his home was somehow following Tory policy brings a smile to my face, as it makes me realise these politicians are human after all. The sly remarks met by jeers and cheers, the comebacks and the satisfied or stressed look of the politicians is a great spectacle in my view. Some would argue this is an immature flaw of PMQs, but I think it is exactly the opposite; it enerises politics, keeping it interesting.
There have been many reforms to PMQs since it first became a formal session in the 19th century under William Gladstone’s leadership. The most recent reform was Tony Blair’s transformation of the spectacle from a twice weekly 15 minute session to a single 30 minute bout on Wednesdays at noon. This 1997 reform cut away the argument that parliamentary time is wasted on PMQs because there is only one slot taken up by the session. However the calls for further reform or even abolition of PMQs are simply failing to see the fun PMQs brings to politics; some weeks it does resemble a posher, less civilised version of Jeremy Kyle.
On a more serious note, PMQs provide one of the best views of the leadership our politicians have over their party, giving a unique insight to the leaders’ personalities. This is because the questions, though known beforehand, still require the politician to think on their feet and come up with an answer that often also becomes a stinging attack on their opposite number. Through these verbal jousts, the electorate can follow the development of a leader on a weekly basis. Some of the most iconic leaders’ best moments have been during PMQs: Margaret Thatcher regularly made interesting viewing and Tony Blair consolidated his leadership of the party through his confident performances.
It for this reason that it is important we defend such a key part of our democracy. Without PMQs, when will we ever see our local MP ask the questions we actually want to ask ourselves? If we cannot see our elected representatives question our Prime Minister, will we as an already disaffected nation truly feel represented? I feel any further reform or removal of PMQs would greatly damage our politics and simply push more and more people toward the apathetic bandwagon driven by Russell Brand.