Nancy Heath looks at this week’s PMQs, and considers conduct in the House of Commons
Now, I know not everyone’s plans for Wednesday lunchtimes involve a cup of tea and watching Prime Minister’s Questions. But never fear, Pi Politics is here with updates on what happened this week on the battlefield known as the House of Commons.
There was heckling, booing, personal insults, avoided questions, smug smiles, childish antics, and the Speaker being forced to single out MPs for “shrill shouting” so that the house could hear the Prime Minister.
An average week in the ring then.
For those of you who don’t know, (and if a first time viewer, please check out Grace Seger’s explanation of the PMQs circus), this is not the sacred political space you may imagine. Despite being our democratically elected officials, the house always seems to resemble a group of petulant schoolchildren for at least a few minutes each week.
This time the main issue was housing, hashed out between Corbyn and Cameron. The leader of the opposition used questions submitted by individual constituents, as usual, grounding his grievances in reality. Corbyn got stronger as he went through his questions, after a lacklustre start. Met with heckling when he first stood, he immediately tried to talk over the rabble. On later questions he stood and waited until the Speaker called for silence.
Corbyn pointed out a legitimate concern about the government’s response to the housing crisis: that there is not enough money in the ‘redevelopment’ scheme to actually redevelop all the new estates. Corbyn claimed the money promised wouldn’t even “pay for the bulldozers”. In classically evasive style, Cameron ignored the numbers and legitimate question, sarcastically apologising that the bill wasn’t “as well thought out as [Corbyn’s] reshuffle”.
Such jibes about Labour’s recent rough reshuffle flowed throughout the questions. As always, some MPs seemed to be there for the screen time rather than with an actual question. Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen stood up, asked that the prime minister compliment his achievements in his constituency, made a pun at Corbyn’s expense, and then promptly sat down with a smug smirk. British politics at its finest.
On the opposition side, the women of Labour, such as Carolyn Harris, seemed to be ready to throw harsh witticism back at the Tories, but Corbyn himself was not. Perhaps this shows the leader, still relatively new, is still in the process of finding his feet, or that he has learned that, in the heated atmosphere of Wednesday lunchtime politics, it’s best to let some comments slide, and choose your battles.
The only sombre note was the silence that fell when Craig Whittaker, the Conservative MP for Calder Valley, stood up to speak about the floods’ effect on his constituency. This was perhaps the only moment of true agreement; the whole house stopped heckling, and nodding ensued on all sides.
As usual, our politicians are quick to agree on how terrible events such as the floods are, but continue to show that they just can’t agree on how to resolve them.