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

6th February, 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.

  • 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).


  • Comment Featured Now is the time to renew, not retreat

    Now is the time to renew, not retreat

    When the exit poll appeared on our screens at 10pm on 7 May, the floor gave way beneath the Labour Party. Like me, every candidate, activist and supporter across the country felt a sickening sense of disappointment and disbelief. It got worse than we all feared at that moment. We got a majority Conservative government. Since that fateful night Jeremy Corbyn’s meteoric rise to the leadership has had a profound and far-reaching impact on the Labour Party, and on the […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured What is Momentum? It means not waiting until we’re in Government to get things done

    What is Momentum? It means not waiting until we’re in Government to get things done

    Labour is in opposition and I hate it. This week I’ve been in Manchester where the Conservative Party had their annual Conference. It would be easy to feel impotent watching the government crow over how they are “making work pay” while cutting tax credits that clobber the working poor. According to the trade union Unison, the Tory policy will see a teaching assistant with one child earning £16,300 per year lose £1,845.20 per year. Or announce “affordable starter homes” that […]

    Read more →
  • Comment It’s not enough to put equality into your speech, you need to put it in your legislation too

    It’s not enough to put equality into your speech, you need to put it in your legislation too

    Equality formed a prominent part of Cameron’s speech yesterday. I waited with bated breath for the end of his section on equality, expecting an announcement of some sort – something bold to help make tangible, real progress on tackling discrimination and achieving equality. As the applause died down, Cameron swiftly moved on to the next subject. This really does sum up the Conservative party on equality – all sound bites and no action. Equality is not just a buzzword with […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News Jeremy Corbyn campaigners set up new Momentum group

    Jeremy Corbyn campaigners set up new Momentum group

    Supporters of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaign have organised to set up a new “grassroots network”, called Momentum. The group plans to organise events, rallies and policy consultations, hoping to tap into the large numbers energised by Corbyn’s leadership bid, and begin campaigning on local issues and within Labour. They plan on Momentum nationally acting as an umbrella organisation for local groups across the country, encouraging people to join Labour and help build a party with the “policies and collective will” […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News Has Jeremy Corbyn really snubbed the Queen?

    Has Jeremy Corbyn really snubbed the Queen?

    Today’s Telegraph front page runs with the story that Jeremy Corbyn has “snubbed” the Queen today by refusing to meet her. Corbyn could today have joined the Privy Council, which would mean him being given the title Right Honourable, but has had to miss the opportunity, citing “prior engagements”. The story has been widely picked up by other media outlets, and used as further proof that the Labour leader is unpatriotic. This follows Corbyn standing in silence for the national anthem […]

    Read more →
Share with your friends