Jeremy Corbyn wins round one against British PM Cameron | world | Hindustan Times
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Jeremy Corbyn wins round one against British PM Cameron

The Prime Minister’s Questions time in the House of Commons is well-known for its theatrics, which put off many, but the first one with Jeremy Corbyn as the opposition leader on Wednesday was a rather different affair, one more sober and that featured questions from members of the public.

world Updated: Sep 17, 2015 00:05 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar

The Prime Minister’s Questions time in the House of Commons is well-known for its theatrics, which put off many, but the first one with Jeremy Corbyn as the opposition leader on Wednesday was a rather different affair, one more sober and that featured questions from members of the public.

Keen to change the nature of Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs), Corbyn began by recalling that voters were concerned that their questions were being buried under spin and theatrics, and reminded Prime Minister David Cameron that he too once wanted a change.

Using the crowd-sourcing approach, Corbyn emailed members of the public for questions he should ask Cameron, got over 40,000 responses, and asked the six most important ones on issues such as housing, tax credits and mental health, forcing Cameron to take them seriously and reply at length.

Noted for his measured and serious deportment, Corbyn ensured that the session remained courteous and civil in a clear break from the rowdy, confrontational sessions in the past. His strong criticism of the government was delivered in a sober but sure manner.

As the new approach was welcomed by voters, some political commentators saw Corbyn leaving the field open to Cameron instead of pinning him down and not following up his replies with tough questions.

Corbyn’s supporters said his first PMQs were a ‘good result’, while commentators insisted he will have to be more forceful in future to put Cameron on the back foot on key issues.

Ever since Prime Minister’s Questions were introduced in 1881, prime ministers have dreaded it due to the atmosphere in the House of Commons marked by baying, shouting and hurling of abuse.

As former prime minister Tony Blair noted in his autobiography, ‘A Journey’: “PMQs was the most nerve-racking, discombobulating, nail-biting, bowel-moving, terror-inspiring, courage-draining experience in my prime ministerial life, without question. You know that scene in Marathon Man where the evil Nazi doctor played by Laurence Olivier drills through Dustin Hoffman’s teeth? At around 1145 on Wednesday mornings, I would have swapped 30 minutes of PMQs for 30 minutes of that.