PMQ’s…we want more!!
Over at Commons Confidential, Nick Assinder suggests to Speaker Bercow that he might “have a quiet word in Gordons ear” suggesting a return to twice-weekly PMQ’s. I am an unashamed fan of PMQ’s and think a return to twice-weekly face-off’s would be no bad thing. Alot of people don’t like PMQ’s because it is very much a media-centred gladiatorial event but part of that is focus.
Of course, the media driven nature of the event means that the spotlight invariably falls on the leaders clashes. However, watching the whole half-hour and leaving aside the leaders jousting there are numerous occasions on which real questions get asked about real policy. I remember a few weeks ago Simon Hughes managed to ask one about Sri Lanka and there are other examples of real substantive questions being asked.
Substantive answers are however an entirely different matter and this is an area where Speaker Bercow should perhaps have a word in Gordon’s ear especially. Although he has got better the last couple of weeks as his self-confidence enjoys something of a shot in the arm it is not unfair of the Conservatives and David Cameron to complain that he frequently dodges the question or responds with tub-thumping banalities.
Part of a return to twice-weekly PMQ’s should be a firmer insistence that the executive should actually answer the questions. Another thing that needs changing is the baneful tendency for ‘planted’ questions to little the event; anything that is basically a device for Gordon Brown ‘aren’t we wonderful as opposed to those evil Tory cutters’ should have some mechanism for it being ruled out of order. Of course, this is part of changing the culture although that will never totally change of the event from the ‘clash’ to holding the executive to actual account.
Because such a thing would involve less newsworthy soundbites it will never totally happen however, if Speaker Bercow is looking to take a radical reforming lead he could do worse than start here as after all this is the event when the Commons is most publicly exposed.