PMQs Verdict: Is this the best Parliament in the world? Or the worst? Actually it’s both

February 6, 2013 1:57 pm

We’ve seen at least two sides of our Parliament in the past 24 hours – perhaps more. Last night’s debate on Equal Marriage was certainly an eye-opener. The speeches ranged from the spectacular to the erudite, the heroic to the downright vile. Some of the debate was Athenian. Some were more akin to a 1am row outside a pub.

Today’s PMQs was better than that, but again it was the low politics rather than the high principle that stuck in the memory was the “spectacle” was over. Ed Miliband led on the Bedroom Tax. It’s an important issue, and the examples he highlighted brought the lives and struggles of millions into the great chamber of the Commons. But of course it was not long before it had descended into acrimony. Miliband mocked Cameron, saying that he has almost half of his party behind him. That was a little cheap really, considering it’s hardly Cameron’s fault that his party are more backwards then either he or Miliband on equal rights. It would have been far more impressive from Miliband had he praised Cameron today.

In return, Cameron snapped back at Miliband for “pre-prepared” remarks.

That’s always something that irks me at PMQs. Of course PMQs is pre-prepared. Everyone knows that. This is not an example of on the spot debate, this is a carefully choreographed set of statements designed to make the other man look like a fool. A huge amount of time and resource is spent my both sides to try and win these jousts. Anyone who claims otherwise is a liar or a fool.

Depressingly, Cameron followed up his jibe about pre-prepared lines with…a pre-prepapred line, hopefully shoehorned in, about Len McCluskey. The Unite General Secretary gave a lecture nearly a month ago (and wrote a piece on LabourList). It was open to the public, journalists were invited, and it was interesting (if not terribly shocking). Yet the Daily Mail claimed yesterday that there had been a “leak” (as in, it’s a slow news day, shall we read that Len McCluskey lecture? – because a public lecture can’t be “leaked”) and today Cameron danced to their one month old tune.

Weak stuff – but as I noted last week, it’s exactly what we should expect from Cameron.

But then it was all change again, as the PM gave his statement on the Mid-Staffs fiasco. And it was good. It was well informed. It didn’t try to score overt and cheap political points. It considered the huge issues with the gravity they deserve. And Miliband’s response was thoughtful and worthy of the gravity of the situation.

And for the second day in a row, there were two parliaments, co-existing, side by side in the same space, conflicting, contrasting and complimenting each other all at the same time. And my view of the place changed all over again. Perhaps this is the greatest parliament on earth after all. Or maybe it is the worst. But it’s more complicated than that – it’s both.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Homfray/510980099 Mike Homfray

    I thought Ed did very well today. Look, this is what PMQ’s is – I agree its not really up to much but unless the beast is slaughtered it will carry on being beastly

  • postageincluded

    What’s this, Mark? PMQs a “spectacle”? Is this Situationist entryism on Labour List? You’ll be “taking a walk” next, you flaming lefty.

  • Bob

    There’s nothing wrong with PMQs per se. The only problem is that often Cameron doesn’t make any attempt to answer the questions.
    But as for the noise, the theatre, the passion, the heckling – I like all of those things. And let’s be honest, without them no-one would bother even watching PMQs.
    The last thing we want is for parliament to become some dry, monotonous stage play (a bit like the US Congress).

Latest

  • Comment Londoners don’t want a staffless, soulless Tube system

    Londoners don’t want a staffless, soulless Tube system

    The London Underground is the single most important piece of public infrastructure in the capital. Over three million people use the Tube each day, to get to work, visit family or see friends. A healthy Underground network is at the heart of a healthy, vibrant London. It is a fantastic system that is the envy of the modern world, but we must ensure we do not neglect our crown jewel. Later  today, I will be addressing a conference on the […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Fairness dictates that we show concern for both sides

    Fairness dictates that we show concern for both sides

    We have all been shocked to see the surge in violence between Israel and Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip. This conflict is causing enormous hardship on both sides. Particularly distressing is the sight of civilian casualties. The scale of human suffering in the current escalation is immense and every civilian casualty is a tragedy. The people of Gaza have the right to live in peace and freedom, just as Israelis have the right not to fear for […]

    Read more →
  • News Are Osborne’s spinners block journalists from asking questions they don’t like?

    Are Osborne’s spinners block journalists from asking questions they don’t like?

    An intriguing story emerged from a copy of the Express and Star last week, the regional newspaper that covers the West Midlands and Staffordshire. Daniel Wainwright reports that during a recent visit from the Chancellor, a radio journalist said she wanted to ask George Osborne about food banks, and was told that he simply wouldn’t answer it. Here’s the story: “Talking of George Osborne, here’s a little insight into what goes on in the run up to getting an interview. These […]

    Read more →
  • News Alexander intervenes on Gaza escalation that “shames our shared humanity”

    Alexander intervenes on Gaza escalation that “shames our shared humanity”

    Douglas Alexander, Labour Shadow Foreign Secretary, has made another intervention on the Gaza conflict as the crisis in the Middle East continues to escalate. Alexander condemns the attack on a UN school in Gaza, describing the deaths of children there as “[shaming] our shared humanity”. His latest comments seem to be aimed largely at lobbying Israel to stand down the level of the force, and to recognise that as a democracy with “vastly superior technological and military capabilities, comes particular responsibilities”. […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Labour changes track – and now it can win

    Labour changes track – and now it can win

    Labour has not generated many headlines this week. There haven’t been game-changers. David Cameron wasn’t trounced in Prime Minister’s Questions. The polls haven’t shifted. The meeting with a post-stardust Obama passed by without significant benefit or incident. Yet, this has been Labour’s best week for some considerable time – certainly in this Parliament. Heading into the final furlong of the election race, Labour has three strategic weaknesses: its perceived weaknesses on leadership, an absence of a strong governing story and a […]

    Read more →