Thursday, January 21, 2010

Yesterday in Parliament

There are several ways of following Prime Minister's Questions on the web, and politics students should do so. PMQ's will rarely be a game-changing exchange, but it is meant to be the House of Commons at its scrutinising best - the prime minister stands before the country's elected representatives to hear and answer their questions on our behalf. If it were followed by more electors, there's a chance that it might become less of a rather sub-standard student debating club, and more of a forum in which there was a genuine pressure on the PM to provide answers to important questions. Even as it stands, though, it provides the key to understanding the ongoing political conversation at Westminster, hence its importance for anyone interested in what is going on in our democracy.

The best regular report on parliament actually comes from Radio 4's 'Today in Parliament'. Yesterday's PMQs feature on the Wednesday January 20th. programme, but all of this admirable unit's broadcasts are worthwhile, and well worth anyone's half an hour. You do often need to scroll in about a minute and a half before the programme actually begins, however.

As to yesterday's events, David Cameron kept his questions - on Haiti and the Doncaster tortures - sober and well-meaning, and failed to either score a particular hit, or to offer Gordon Brown a chance to practise his new-found comedic skills. The Spectator's Lloyd Evans offers a pretty scathing account of Cameron's failure, in his view, to step up to the mark. This is of a piece with the Spectator's current highly critical stance towards Cameron - they appear to be positioning themselves as the defenders of arch-Thatcherite Toryism, and we look forward to Norman Tebbit's imminent appointment as Advisory Editor!

Nick Clegg had a good PMQ's, with his question about the RBS funding of Kraft's take-over of Cadbury. It was pointed, relevant, and potentially damaging to the government which, as Clegg reminded us, had promised to fight tooth and nail to preserve Cadbury's. Brown, meanwhile, when not answering Clegg's question, was also keen to remind the House of a recent speech by old Tory warhorse Ken Clarke. Clarke had made a perfectly sound case for opposing a marriage tax allowance - he suggested it was not the business of politicians to determine whether or not people get married, a view that should have appealed to any remaining neo-liberals on the Tory benches. Of course, the problem here was less Clarke's previous out-spokenness, and more Cameron's commitment to an increasingly embarrassing policy.

Gordon Brown, in fact, appeared to have quite a good PMQ session - his second in a row. However, so focused is he on remembering his new one-liners, that the real business of this session now appears to be lost on him. Paul Waugh has a useful anecdote here about a well meant question from Tory MP Michael Fabricant which received unjustifiably short shrift. As I say, until more people decide that it is worth tuning in to what their representatives are saying, and how they are scrutinising government, we will continue to get the PMQ's we deserve.

REMINDER: That the BBC Democracy Live pages offer an excellent collection of videos and reports from all of the representative chambers.

2 comments:

chris.schofield said...

*government

The infamous blog is so mistake-ridden it makes us wonder whether it is even worth following...

Sgs.Pol.Std.Anon. said...

theres a blog?