PMQs Watch

PMQs (Prime Minister’s Questions) in the House of Commons was back to its usual self on Wednesday with the prime Minister David Cameron going up against the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Harriet Harman. Harman is less confrontation and aggressive compared to her predecessor and former boss, Ed Miliband, so one might presume that she is somewhat of a sitting duck for David Cameron who has been noted for his own ‘bullying and adversarial’ tone at times. Harman however is sticking to her ‘soft’ approach and this seems to be having an effect on Cameron who seemed  less boisterous.

Harman (LO) asked two questions on the refugee crisis in Calais before turning to a conflictual topic: the government’s purported cut in tax credit. At one point, after receiving shouts of dismay from the opposition backbenches, she made direct eye contact and addressed them as ‘honourable members’.

LO: now I know he doesn’t have to budget 
    but many families do
Chamber: ((shouts of dismay))
LO: well it’s the truth (.) it’s the truth (.) 
    no (.) it’s the truth (.) it’s the truth (.) 
   think (.) think about (.)
   ((looks and gestures at backbenches))
LO: if honourable members would just for a moment 
    think about a lone parent working part time (.) 
    to compensate her for that loss of 
    fourteen hundred pounds a year 
    the minimum wage would have to go up overnight 
    by twenty five percent 
    that’s not gonna happen is it
Harriet Harman, Deputy Leader of the Opposition

Her willingness to partially engage with the opposition backbenchers in this way, by slowing down, repeating and presenting a softer tone, contrasts with Ed Miliband who often tried to ‘shout’ his way through confrontation. It will be interesting to see whether she persists with this style and what effect it will have on Cameron and PMQs in general. Watch the clip here (external).

The Speaker

The Speaker of the House (SP), John Bercow, had to intervene to quieten the chamber down at usual. The Speaker has full rights to the floor and is able to intervene at any time to restore ‘order’. The current speaker (PM) is required to sit down when this happens thus relinquishing control of the floor.

PM: wh- when (.)
Chamber:      ((shouts of agreement))
SP: order order (.) or- order (.) 
    I’m very worried about the health 
    of the honourable member (.) 
    for Hornsey and Wood Green 
    she must calm herself 
    we’re at the very early stage in the proceedings (.) 
    a period of calm must descend upon the house (.) 
    the prime minister
Chamber:             ((laughter))
PM: because the last government ...

This is an example of institutionalised, globally-managed discourse in which the rights to floor are carefully controlled (unlike ordinary day-to-day conversation). Watch the clip here (external).

John Bercow, The Speaker

Full Fiscal Shambles

The Prime Minister, David Cameron, when addressing the leader of the SNP party used the term ‘full fiscal shambles’ to describe the SNPs action on fiscal autonomy for Scotland. ‘FFS’ of course has another connotation!

PM: full fiscal autonomy has now become f-f-s (.) 
    full fiscal shambles 
Chamber:   ((shouts of agreement))

You can watch PMQs in full on the BBC iPlayer:

PMQs:  Wednesday 24th June, 2015


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