Cameron may reform PMQs

WHEN MPs moan about their pay and conditions, their cause isn't helped by most of them boycotting debates, which results in rows of empty green benches and leads to the public questioning: “just what do they do, they're never there.

Graham Dines

WHEN MPs moan about their pay and conditions, their cause isn't helped by most of them boycotting debates, which results in rows of empty green benches and leads to the public questioning: “just what do they do, they're never there.”

Modernising the House of Commons is mostly to blame. Pre Tony Blair, the House didn't meet until 2.30pm, leaving the mornings free for crucial hearings in the various select committees. With the Commons now assembling in the mornings on three days a week, debates clash with all sorts of obligations - including select committee hearings - and this is the reason why debates are so poorly attended.

Tony Blair changed Prime Minister's Questions from two 15 minute sessions a week to one of 30 minutes. This has resulted in many MPs clearing off out of Westminster on Wednesdays after 12.30pm.


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David Cameron is considering changing PMQs from Wednesdays to Thursdays if he becomes Prime Minister to ensure that more MPs are at Westminster for the majority of the week.

Of course what could happen is that the backsliders and those MPs minting it with additional private sector work may not turn up at the start of the week.

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I'm not one to support the practices of the European Parliament, but there is one practice from Brussels which we could adopt - make MPs sign in every day in exchange for being paid.

CELEBRITY backing means everything to political parties. The kudos the Liberals enjoyed from being endorsed in the 1960s by Honor Blackman - who played Cathy Gale in cult TV hit The Avengers and Pussy Galore in the James Bond movie Goldfinger - did much to boost Jeremy Thorpe's small band of bravados.

Oasis singers Noel and Liam Gallagher were in the vanguard for New Labour and Manchester Utd manager Sir Alex Ferguson is a Labour supporter. The Tories have the backing of Sir Tim Rice and Lord (Andrew) Lloyd Webber, but they are desperate for more big name endorsements.

Research undertaken profiling which social groups are most likely to switch directly from Labour to the Conservatives are single people and young couples living in new homes, both of which are influenced by celebrity culture.

Don't be surprised if a galaxy of footballers and pop culture stars turn out for David Cameron as the election date gets ever nearer.

NICK Griffin, leader of the British National Party, has changed constituencies. Instead of standing in the south Essex seat of Thurrock West, he's announced he'll try to win the neighbouring Barking, where the BNP narrowly came third in 2005.

Barking is a seat in which Labour's largesse of investment to improve public services seems to have had little impact. It is white working class, where sentiment against immigrants seethes under the surface, and whose MP Margaret Hodge has already warned of a backlash in favour of the BNP.

Light the blue touch paper and watch the fireworks erupt . . .

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