The first prime minister’s questions (PMQs) since the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader was the most anticipated political event since the North Islington MP surged past his leadership rivals in the polls.
Yet in the event Corbyn’s strategy of crowdsourcing questions from his supporters was fielded respectfully (and perhaps even gratefully) by prime minister David Cameron, who calmly knocked each one back to a largely silent Commons.
— Joe Pickover (@JPickover) September 16, 2015
For some this is PMQs as it should be, minus the usual jeering and braying from the Commons that arouses such distaste from the members of the public regularly canvassed by journalists.
I was sceptical at first, but I quite like this new #PMQs format. Less yah-boo, more democratic, & more calm and accessible to the public.
— Josiah Mortimer (@josiahmortimer) September 16, 2015
For others the steady plodding of questions on topics such as housing and welfare made the session more like a phone-in show:
I’m so bored. They could do this by email, FFS. #PMQs
— Hugo Rifkind (@hugorifkind) September 16, 2015
And some were not happy with Corbyn’s lack of response to Cameron, who was left largely free to answer the questions without challenge from the leader of the opposition, whose main role is to, well, “oppose” the government.
#pmqs Corbyn solid and serious so mission accomplished today but Cam not under any pressure. He’ll take 5 yrs of that, not sure lab mps will
— robert shrimsley (@robertshrimsley) September 16, 2015
Perhaps most importantly for the public relations war surrounding PMQs, Cameron was not prompted to the sneery anger that many observers believe shows him at his least sympathetic, evoking the fictional school bully Flashman from Victorian novel Tom Brown’s School Days.
The rather unexpected effect of JC’s new PMQs (which I liked) was to bring out a better Cameron. — David Aaronovitch (@DAaronovitch) September 16, 2015
Corbyn has to find a way of bringing out the “Flashman” in Cameron.
— Mike Smithson (@MSmithsonPB) September 16, 2015
Whether the good will, which was later spoiled by jeers from both Labour MPs and the Scottish National Party (SNP), will last beyond the first few weeks remains to be seen.
Seems like SNP will be providing the aggro from the opposition benches this Parliament, at least for now #PMQs
— Jimmy Nicholls (@jdenicholls) September 16, 2015
And whether any of it really matters that much at all is another question yet to be answered.
Image Credit – PMQs September 16 2015 via BBC Parliament