PMQs returned to our screens on Wednesday after a brief rest bite for the party conferences. David Cameron went up against Jeremy Corbyn, the new leader of the Labour party, for the second time since Corbyn was elected. Corbyn again selected some questions from the public, a technique that has been dubbed ‘Corbyn’s crowdsourcing’, but followed these up with more specific points to try and pin Cameron down on certain issues.
One feature of Corbyn’s delivery that seems to have emerged is the ‘Corbyn stare’, a rather dismissive eye gaze at a certain section of unruly MPs in the chamber, usually accompanied by a prolonged pause in his delivery. As I have suggested before, long pauses in a speaker’s delivery are rare in the chamber because of the potential loss of face and a possible interruption by the Speaker of the House. MPs prefer to use repetition and false starts to hold the floor while dealing with unruly sections of the chamber.
On three occasions yesterday, Corbyn (LO) directly confronted MPs who he felt were excessively noisy and unruly with a stare and a pause. The pauses were only a few seconds long but in the context of PMQs in the House of Commons these are quite significant.
SP: Jeremy Corbyn Chamber: ((shouts of agreement)) LO: thank you Chamber: ((general noise and laughter)) LO: ((2.0 sec pause; stares at section of chamber)) ((glances at the Speaker)) thank you mister speaker
LO: I’d also like to tell him I’ve had three thousand five hundred questions on housing in the last few days Chamber: ((comment from chamber)) LO: ((turns and stares at section of chamber)) ((2 sec pause)) and I just want to say this ((2 sec pause)) Chamber: ((laughter from some members)) LO: a question from Matthew ((2 sec pause)) this might be funny to some members but it’s not- it’s not funny to Matthew or many others Chamber: ((shouts of agreement))
LO: I’m sure- ((3 sec pause)) ((turns and stares at section of chamber)) I’m sure he’s aware that ..
Corbyn has indicated his desire for a more ‘adult’ approach to PMQs without the ‘punch and Judy’ barracking. The Corbyn stare seems to be his own way to emphasise this and to maintain face in the House. How long it will last remains to be seen.
The stare does seem to be infections however since Angus Robertson of the SNP used it when he rose to questions the Prime Minister.
AR: and the UK has no plan to help refugees from Syria who are now in ((general noise from chamber)) AR: ((turns to Speaker; 5 sec pause)) the UK has no plan to help Syrian refugees who have made it SP: ((intervention))
LO: Leader of Opposition (Jeremy Corbyn)
SP: The Speaker of the House of Commons
AR: Angus Robertson
Chamber: the House of Commons chamber