PMQs was a relatively quiet affair on Wednesday apart for the outburst from “Jurassic Park” (aka Dennis Skinner). Harriet Harman asked a few questions on the issue of radicalisation and the aftermath of the Tunisian attacks before moving on to the issue of airport capacity.
In a previous post I have argued that the house is a multi-faceted chamber with comments and background noise from members combining with the current speaker to create a multi-modal discourse act. One interesting type of noise that is sometimes heard from the chamber is what I term the ‘revealing ah’. This is an expression by one or several members of the house, usually in support of the current speaker, which suggests that what has just been said in some way reveals something surprising about the leader, or the party, on the other side of the house. This surprise is completely false however and aims to ‘mock’ the target of the revelation. There were a couple of examples of this on Wednesday albeit in a somewhat muted form. Here’s Harriet Harman (HH) getting support from the ‘revealing ah’ as she pokes fun at Cameron.
HH: he gives the impression there’s going to be a proper process (.) but there’s something very different coming out of number ten (.) because their briefing it’s not going to happen Chamber: ((ah)) HH: it looks like the prime minister has been overruled by the member for Uxbridge (.) Chamber: ((ah and general noise)) HH: and- and (.) he should tell him (.) he should tell him (.) he’s not the leader of the Tory party yet
Cameron made good use of this with his party when confronting Ed Miliband.
DC: when he was energy secretary when he became energy secretary (.) the companies were making twenty five pounds loss (.) per bill (.) when he left government they were making fifty five pounds profit per bill Chamber: ((aahhh)) DC: he didn’t stand up to the vested interests (.) he stuffed their pockets with cash (.)
The House of Commons is an example of institutionalised discourse where the turn-taking is globally managed by the Speaker of the house. The Speaker has full rights to the floor and can decide who speaks next and for how long. He also has the right to terminate turns. This was evident a few times during Wednesday’s events when he removed the floor from several MPs who he deemed had gone on too long.
Last week we heard Cameron use the term ‘FFS’ which some might construe as derogatory:
PM: full fiscal autonomy has now become f-f-s (.) full fiscal shambles Chamber: ((shouts of agreement))
Today we heard him call Dennis Skinner “Jurassic Park”. Skinner, whose nickname is “the beast of Bolsover” due to his outbursts in parliament that often draw the wrath of the Speaker, perhaps did deserve this put down.
Dennis Skinner: ((outburst)) Speaker: ((call to order, selects next speaker)) PM: well it’s very good to hear the labour party in full voice cheering on Jurassic Park
PMQs – Wednesday 1st July 2015