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

  • Featured Six answers for Jeremy Hunt – and six questions

    Six answers for Jeremy Hunt – and six questions

    Today Labour activists will be out in force across the country to campaign on the NHS. They’ll have the wind in their sails after Conference, buoyed by the fact that the Tories are rattled and now on the back foot. You can always tell when Jeremy Hunt is rattled. He starts sending out dodgy tweets. When most people might reasonably have expected the Health Secretary to be focused on sorting out the A&E crisis, he instead took to Twitter this […]

    Read more →
  • Comment However MPs voted on airstrikes – they must now hold the government to account

    However MPs voted on airstrikes – they must now hold the government to account

    Britain is now at war with ISIL. At some point over the weekend that will cease to be a technical statement and become an on-the-ground reality. RAF jets will take part in airstrikes against the so-called Islamic State. In concert with the Iraqi army and Kurdish forces they will attempt to damage and drive back ISIL, stopping their otherwise relentless military gains. It is a tough but necessary task. The vote in the Commons today was not a close one. […]

    Read more →
  • Featured The 24 Labour MPs who opposed airstrikes against ISIL

    The 24 Labour MPs who opposed airstrikes against ISIL

    The vast majority of Labour MPs (and MPs from across the Commons) voted in favour of airstrikes against ISIL in Iraq today, but 24 Labour MPs voted against the party whip and opposed airstrikes. One of them (Rushanara Ali) resigned as a Shadow Education Minister as a result of a “formal abstention”. Here’s the full list of Labour’s 24 rebels: Diane Abbott Graham Allen Anne Begg Ronnie Campbell Martin Caton Katy Clark Ian Davidson Paul Flynn Stephen Hepburn Kate Hoey Kelvin Hopkins […]

    Read more →
  • News Rushanara Ali resigns as Shadow Education Minister over Iraq vote

    Rushanara Ali resigns as Shadow Education Minister over Iraq vote

    The Commons has voted for air strikes against ISIL in Iraq. There were 24 Labour rebels but there has been one Shadow Ministerial resignation – Rushanara Ali has resigned as Shadow Education Minister after refusing to vote with the party whip on the vote. Ali abstained. Shadow Defence Secretary Vernon Coaker’s PPS Iain McKenzie was sacked for his No vote. Ali is the MP for Bethnal Green and Bow. The last Labour MP for that seat – Oona King – lost […]

    Read more →
  • News Video “This is the hardest test, but the aim is clear” – Watch Ed Miliband’s Iraq statement

    “This is the hardest test, but the aim is clear” – Watch Ed Miliband’s Iraq statement

    Ed Miliband this morning spoke in favour of UK involvement in airstrikes on ISIL in Iraq. He said: “ISIL’s ideology has nothing to do with the peaceful religion practised by people across the world and by millions of our fellow citizens, who are appalled by what we see. And it is not simply that ISIL is a murderous organisation, it has ambitions for a state of its own – a Caliphate across the Middle East, run according to their horrific […]

    Read more →
7ads6x98y