Is there any point to PMQs?

With the election only a few months away there is now a greater focus on parliament and in particular the weekly edition of Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs). This is the flagship event of the week in parliament and is poured over and dissected by the media. This greater focus and scrutiny has led to renewed criticism in recent months though, with many aspects of PMQs being criticized.

The criticisms, although wide ranging, have focused on specific aspects. The chamber is very loud and ill-disciplined with MPs struggling to be heard, and the Speaker regularly having to intervene to bring order. The questions between Miliband and Cameron normally descend into public insults with both being heckled loudly whenever they attempt to speak. The majority of questions are pre-planted and are designed either to attack the Prime Minister or to give him the chance to show off his record.  PMQs is no longer the place where important constituency matters can be raised, but is now simply an occasion for parties to try and score political points and trot out their pre-election slogans.

We all enjoy the passion and theatre of the Commons, but to remain relevant there does need to be a level of control. Our parliament should be robust and passionate but this passion should be directed at the issues. This is an opportunity where the Prime Minister is supposed to be being held to account; an opportunity currently missed.

PMQs is shown all over the world and for a lot of people who live outside the UK it is the only glimpse of the British Parliament that they see. The raucous scenes of PMQs are therefore often the only example of what our Parliament is like and given the childish and petty behaviour of many MPs at PMQs this is not something which should sit well with any of us who care about our parliament.

PMQs is not working in its current format. It is failing to achieve what it was intended to do and major reform is needed if it is to again be worthwhile. As the face of parliament PMQs does not present a good image and does little for democracy. The behaviour of the MPs is childish, the questions are pre-planned, the answers are scripted and most of the time you can barely hear yourself think. Our parliament and our democracy must be better than this.

Article by Mike Hough

Photograph – The Telegraph

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