Every Wednesday at midday in the Houses of Parliament, when sitting, is Prime Minister’s Questions. An opportunity for members of the house to ask questions of the PM. It is the only opportunity you will get to see a pantomime outside of the Christmas period! Last Wednesday I was lucky enough to be in the public gallery and was able to see first hand the David and Ed show. It was fascinating and hugely entertaining way to spend 30 minutes.
We were ushered up shortly after morning prayers when questions to the International Development Secretary were in full swing with a smattering of MPs from both sides of the house present. Before we could enter the gallery we had to hand over all our electrical stuff so I had been separated from my iPhone and other stuff. Clearly that rule didn’t apply to the MPs several of whom had iPads, half a dozen on the Labour benches none on the Tory side. I couldn’t see if they were doing anything useful or simply playing Angry Birds though.
Then, five minutes before the main show the place really started to fill up until it was standing room only and the heavy weights started arriving: Ken Clarke, Alistair Darling, Jack Straw, William Hague. There was a sharp intake of breath and a boo as George Osbourne arrived. Oh, no, wait that was me in my head! And then we were off. It is much more scripted than I had imagined. The order and who is asking what question is pre-determined and listed in the order papers (see below). A lot of it was just set pieces along with the obligatory question from some sycophant MP blowing smoke up the PM’s arse: “Would my honourable colleague agree that we are fucking brilliant and the economy, education, NHS is so much better under us than that shameful lot of no-hopers over there?”
Of course it was as loud and rumbustious as you see on TV and at one point the Speaker had to admonish the Government back benchers “yet to reach maturity” for not following procedures and talking when they weren’t supposed to. He warned that if they didn’t behave that he would extend the session and that would only inconvenience them and not him. Presumably they would be late for lunch? Nothing seemed to change, it continued to be as noisy as it had been previously.
There were a couple of interesting questions raised. The main one being that of the European budget of which there was to be a vote later in the afternoon (which the Government lost) that Labour clearly wanted to exploit seeing as that is a well know sore point for the Tories. It smacked of opportunism of course and Cameron was quick to point out that Labour were taking an opposing view to previously but being a complete hypocrite is an essential quality for the job of an MP. The other interesting point was on support for recognising a Palestine state. The UK quite rightly gets a lot of stick for following the US in it’s foreign policy but this is one area where we clearly diverge and for the better in my opinion.
Then thirty minutes later it was over and Cameron was out of the chamber with a speed that suggested that someone had lit a rocket under him and we all politely filed out too.
It was a really enjoyable time even if it only lasted half an hour. I would strongly encourage anyone who is on the electoral roll to apply for tickets, it really is easy (and free) to do. You just need to contact your local MP (look them up on They Work for You) and ask. And while you are at it ask for tickets for the tour of the Palace of Westminster (also free) which is equally as fascinating.
If you are interested in seeing the order paper for the day, including my scribbled notes, you can read them here. There are also a small number of pictures below. You are not meant to take any pictures so these were done surreptitiously.