Why PMQs is like Question Time (and both are rubbish)

8th March, 2012 8:02 pm

I don’t watch Prime Minister’s Questions. Never. Wednesday is my only day off and I’d rather have a long lie in. From what I read on The Blogs, it doesn’t sound like I’m missing a great deal. Every week, there’ll be another piece bemoaning either the childish behaviour of our elected officials, Cameron parading his arrogance, planted questions, Bercow parading his arrogance or Miliband’s inability to score any cheap party political points (which is, as I understand, the point of PMQs). LabourList’s own editor Mark Ferguson seems so unhappy with it all that his continued viewership can now only be ascribed to a deep-rooted sadism. This would also explain his penchant for door-knocking naked.

Yesterday was no different, with Mark and Dan Hodges both lamenting the fact that the sombre, serious tone that began the half-hour affair was soon made to look insincere as, once more, the House of Commons fell to the occasion. Mark’s campaign to get MPs to bloody well get their act together is admirable, but undoubtedly doomed. When John Bercow says that “the public” don’t want to see MPs behave in the way they so often do in the chamber, he might well be right; but when “the public” are given the chance, things aren’t as different as you might like to believe.

I don’t watch Question Time. Never. This is because, unlike Mark Ferguson, I am not a sadist.* I can’t watch it. It makes me angry that no one wants to listen to anything anyone else has to say and depressed that at the only time that people can properly interact with politicians in a public forum, this is the forum in which is has to be held.

Question Time is a stain on our democracy. Nothing in this world makes me unhappier than Question Time, other than unnecessary exaggeration that trivialises real tragedies in this world. Those are definitely the two worst things in life.

It is simultaneously the Roman Colosseum and the Christmas panto of the modern political world. A rag-tag group of cowed politicians, ambitious commentators and baffled celebs are paraded to prove their worth in front of a baying mob. Either they are vindicated or they are damned. Move over reasoned political debate, you are not welcome here. Just shout your opinion, and keep it snappy. No time to go into detail, but let’s solve Iraq NOW.

What is supposed to be achieved here? Is anything learned, anything gained? Are governments held to account or charlatans exposed?

The idea that Question Time is any better than PMQs is a sham. It’s politics for the people who know they’re angry but never know why. The shouting is ceaseless, the screaming and jeering regardless of events. The MPs are more in touch than we’d like to admit.

I’m looking at the pigs, and I’m looking at the people, and I can no longer tell them apart.

*I would like to point out that Mark Ferguson, Editor of LabourList, is not a sadist.

  • Slakah

    I hate to sound like a snob, but I do believe Any Questions to be a lot better than the both of them.

  • SR819

    Can’t argue with any of that tbh. The same thing could be said for Ed Miliband’s treatment on Victoria Derbyshire’s radio phone-in. I think there’s such a strong anti-politics/politician mood in this country that it’s difficult for Ed to get his points across, many of which are actually decent (although too orthodox still IMO) Not many people want to listen to Ed because they despise politicians, and would prefer to have a rant at them. We need to change these attitudes tbh. An anti-politics atmosphere does the Labour Party no favours whatsoever, because it opens the door for the Conservatives to say, “let’s leave everything to the market, because government is the problem”.

  • Winston_from_the_Ministry

    I don’t care for PMQs, but QT is a great watch.

  • robertcp

    Conor, do you mean that Mark is a masochist?  Your piece seems to be arguing that MPs are no better or worse than the people that elect them.  This could be seen as the point of democracy.  However, I do share some of your irritation with people who do not want to hear reasoned argument.

  • Brumanuensis

    Very enjoyable as always and very true too.

    One pedantic quibble: surely you meant to describe Mark Ferguson as a ‘masochist’*, unless he forces others to watch with him, in which case he would be a ‘sadist’*. Confronting voters on the doorstep naked would arguably be ‘sado-masochism’*, although this would depend on how unpleasant his nakedness was for the voter in question. But enough of this conjecture.

    *I am not implying anything about Mark Ferguson’s proclivities

  • Jeff_Harvey

    Question Time could be much improved by inviting a much better quality of guest onto the show to speak and air their opinions; much the same thing could be said in respect to Prime Minister’s Questions.

  • Colchester1648

    However, Conor, Mark is a ‘masochist’ not a sadist as he likes to have pain inflicted upon him. You will be able to get advice on such, and perhaps an invitation to try it from the following address:

    Mr G Osborne
    11 Downing Street
    SW1A 2AB

  • AlanGiles

    Yes there is much less playing to the gallery being on radio, and unlike QT there is not the “selection process” employed – anybody can apply for tickets, But you have to do so by March 13th.

    As a matter of fact, for those in the London area who may be interested, the edition of April 13th is being transmitted from the Radio Theatre at Broadcasting House Portland Place (the old Concert Hall). It is transmitted live and if you want to apply for tickets go:-



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