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

  • Europe News Video Alan Johnson explains why he supports the EU

    Alan Johnson explains why he supports the EU

    While much of the political narrative around the European Union recently has been about restricting rights on EU migrants, former Home Secretary Alan Johnson has come out to talk about why he is favour of it. In a minute-long video for the pro-EU think tank British Influence, Johnson explains that he is “part romantic, part pragmatist about Europe”. He is attracted to the idea on a romantic level because of its conception as a forum to promote diplomacy rather than […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Time to pay school support staff their due

    Time to pay school support staff their due

    The debate about schools, pupil attainment and changes to our education system rages on. Yet there is one group of workers who are rarely discussed or heard in the debate, despite playing a fundamental role in almost every aspect of school life – school support staff. UNISON has almost been a lone voice in championing this overlooked group. School support staff help children learn, keep them safe and healthy and ensure schools run smoothly. They help provide the holistic attention […]

    Read more →
  • Europe News Cooper says Cameron’s migration target is “in tatters” – and Tory backbenchers agree

    Cooper says Cameron’s migration target is “in tatters” – and Tory backbenchers agree

    Yvette Cooper has slammed David Cameron’s major speech on EU immigration, saying that he has spent weeks of “posturing, pandering and making more promises he can’t keep” in order to placate his backbenchers, rather than coming up with practical solutions. Cameron said that he wanted to extend the period that EU migrants would have to wait before claiming benefits from three months to four years – double the two years Labour announced last week. But Shadow Home Secretary Cooper said […]

    Read more →
  • Featured Scotland Labour will implement Smith Commission proposals in first Queen’s Speech, pledges Miliband

    Labour will implement Smith Commission proposals in first Queen’s Speech, pledges Miliband

    Ed Miliband today said that the vow he made to radically devolve powers to Holyrood during the referendum campaign had been ‘signed, sealed and delivered’ by the publication of the Smith Commission’s report yesterday. He told an audience in Glasgow this morning that Labour would fully implement the proposals set out by the report in the first Queen’s Speech if elected next year. You can read Mark Ferguson’s take on the Smith Commission’s report here. Miliband said: “A vow was […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News Diane Abbott expected to announce she will run to be London Mayor

    Diane Abbott expected to announce she will run to be London Mayor

    It’s rumoured that tomorrow at London Labour party conference Diane Abbott, the MP for Hackney and Stoke Newington, will announce that she will run to be Labour’s candidate for Mayor of London. Abbott  was Shadow Minister for Public Health until last year and has been the Labour MP for the north east London constituency for twenty seven years – where she doubled her majority in 2010. Prior to becoming an MP she was elected to Westminster City Council in 1982. […]

    Read more →