Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Politeness in the Commons?

The House of Commons, known for its boisterousness, especially during Prime Minister's Questions, was strangely polite and quite today. The tragedy in Cumbria no doubt was partially responsible for this. In many ways it was similar to Gordon Brown's first PMQs which took place just days after attempted terrorist attacks in London and Glasgow.

When he first became Leader of the Conservative party, David Cameron said he wanted to put an end to 'Punch and Judy politics' which the Commons is known to produce. This was quickly forgotten, and as Leader of the Opposition Mr. Cameron continued the adversarial tradition of Commons' debating. Perhaps today's politeness on the part of the Prime Minister was an attempt to return to his original policy of orderly discourse.

One of the most striking (and distracting) things to notes was the Prime Minister's lack of the notes! Pervious PMs have had a massive folder permanently in front of them during PMQs, which contained the government's position on every issue which might be asked about. David Cameron however, for most of the time, didn't have one piece of paper to hand. I wonder how long this innovation will last.

Harriet Harman, acting Leader of the Labour party, performed well, although having been Leader of the House for the last three years, she is used to the atmosphere of the Commons. One thing missing was a third party. Before, the leader of the second largest opposition party (normally the Liberal Democrats) was allowed to ask the PM two question, but of course the Liberal Democrats are now part of the government and their leader sat silently next to the Prime Minister.

Talking of the Liberal Democrats, today the nominations for the Deputy Leadership closed. There will be two candidates for the job - Simon Hughes and Tim Farron – and the election will take place next Wednesday.

Some Labour MPs must look on with envy, their leadership election doesn't end for months. At the moment is looks like only three candidates - David Miliband, Ed Miliband and Ed Balls - will be able to get the support of 33 Labour MPs, which is required for them to be nominated. All three candidates are white Oxford educated men, and two of them share the same surname and parents. This is not the image of diversity for which some in the Labour party had been hoping. There is still a little time for other candidates to get nominated, the deadline is next Wednesday – the same day as the Liberal Democrats Deputy Leadership election and David Cameron's next PMQs.

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