One of the funny things about watch PMQs on the tube is that the distance between leaders is exaggerated. They seem to be further apart than they actually are because of camera cuts and the fact, despite the presence of microphones, they’re yelling with some force across the floor. Anyone who’s been to the House of Commons knows that the space is confined and intimate and any chasm is metaphorical more than anything else.s
Jeremy Corbyn’s PMQs debt is not the debutante revolution everyone is hailing it to be. Respectful of the prime minister, yes, but attributing a question to a named member of the public is not much different to asking the questions important to, or talked about, by the public. That’s how political issues are discussed and how point scoring is done and if the leader of the opposition wasn’t doing that he wouldn’t be doing his job, anyway.
What was actually different about PMQs was the softly-softly way in Corbyn conducted himself. Corbyn may actually have succeeded in bringing an end to the “Punch and Judy” politics that Cameron had promised to do when he became the leader of the opposition. But like a first date, the potential is there but whether or not the magic lasts is a different matter altogether.
Concurrently, FMQs has been hailed as both an absurdity and a more informative experience than PMQs. The jeering is less prolific, there are fewer members, and it is seldom the screaming match of down south. The Salmond era was a belligerent exception, particularly in the run-up, during and after the Scottish referendum and opponents responded alike. His successor, Nicola Sturgeon, seldom screams and any point scoring is completed with a sarcastic rebuttal to what a leader thinks is a patently obvious fact
So no, Corbyn has not ushered in a revolution, he is injecting some of the Scottish Parliament’s mostly natural (previously called dull) civility into Westminster. Of course, FMQs is a spectacle, but it’s a less of a theatrical show than PMQs which are more sport than public accountability. That’s why we have committees and members questions. FMQs does gleam a degree of insight, and long may this continue, particularly if the SNP, if the polls are to be believed, are on their way to another landslide victory.
So Corbyn’s phone attributions are neat, but not new, and if a leader was not asking the questions that the public wanted to know anyway then something has gone awry. As for the speak softly, carry a big stick approach of Corbyn, he should do as he does with his questions and attribute to the source of his ‘different’ approach. Namely, Ruth, Kezia, Willie and Nicola fae Scotland.