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Published on January 13th, 2012 | by Sam Hargreaves
Image © After watching this week's Prime Ministers Questions I have noticed something Shakespearean about the whole affair, which occurs every Wednesday at 12:00 in the Palace of Westminster. First of all is the staging of PMQs; the audience is passive in the process as those who represent the public conceive and ask the questions they feel are the most important to them. MPs are under no obligation to ask questions that their constituents ask of them, though thankfully a great many do.  On this stage the public are merely observers. The Prime Minister stars as the protagonist in this play facing the antagonist, the leader of the opposition, over the despatch box and face-to-face, both flanked by their respective parties. This is unlike other parliaments in Europe who shun the adversarial method, which it has been argued, creates drama at the expense of legitimate debate. This is often described as ‘Punch and Judy’ politics. Also within the half an hour the ‘actors’ in this play are judged not merely by the power of their words but their appearance, dress and on some occasions their hairstyle. The actors must give careful consideration to this, for fear that they will suffer at the hands of the ‘Reviewers’ who watch their every move. Who are these reviewers? Why they are the media. At 12:00 on Wednesday the majority of people will be in school or at work, thus will not be able to view it live. The first encounter an individual will have is through the analysis of the ‘performance’ by a newspaper or a TV broadcast. Just as with a play this reviewer will have the power to declare which actor was a success and which one failed. Looking at Prime Ministers Questions as a play highlights it’s failings as a method to hold a government to account. When questions on important issues can be reduced to personal or political joke, nobody wins. However if you look past the jokes and to and fro between the leaders you can see genuine policy being hinted at. For example, this week when David Cameron was asked whether the 50% tax rate would remain within the life of this parliament, he gave a long answer in which he did not confirm nor deny this.  By examining the language of the seemingly mundane answers we shall see the future actions of the government, not through study of the dramatics which serve merely as distractions. I encourage the reader to tune in and keep a close eye on PMQs, and if you can't, Catch21 covers the PMQs every Wednesday where we hope you will join in with our tweeting. If you want to follow @catch21p on twitter please click on the link.

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PMQs: The Play is the Thing

After watching this week’s Prime Ministers Questions I have noticed something Shakespearean about the whole affair, which occurs every Wednesday at 12:00 in the Palace of Westminster.

First of all is the staging of PMQs; the audience is passive in the process as those who represent the public conceive and ask the questions they feel are the most important to them. MPs are under no obligation to ask questions that their constituents ask of them, though thankfully a great many do.  On this stage the public are merely observers.

The Prime Minister stars as the protagonist in this play facing the antagonist, the leader of the opposition, over the despatch box and face-to-face, both flanked by their respective parties. This is unlike other parliaments in Europe who shun the adversarial method, which it has been argued, creates drama at the expense of legitimate debate. This is often described as ‘Punch and Judy’ politics.

Also within the half an hour the ‘actors’ in this play are judged not merely by the power of their words but their appearance, dress and on some occasions their hairstyle. The actors must give careful consideration to this, for fear that they will suffer at the hands of the ‘Reviewers’ who watch their every move.

Who are these reviewers? Why they are the media. At 12:00 on Wednesday the majority of people will be in school or at work, thus will not be able to view it live. The first encounter an individual will have is through the analysis of the ‘performance’ by a newspaper or a TV broadcast. Just as with a play this reviewer will have the power to declare which actor was a success and which one failed.

Looking at Prime Ministers Questions as a play highlights it’s failings as a method to hold a government to account. When questions on important issues can be reduced to personal or political joke, nobody wins. However if you look past the jokes and to and fro between the leaders you can see genuine policy being hinted at.

For example, this week when David Cameron was asked whether the 50% tax rate would remain within the life of this parliament, he gave a long answer in which he did not confirm nor deny this.  By examining the language of the seemingly mundane answers we shall see the future actions of the government, not through study of the dramatics which serve merely as distractions.

I encourage the reader to tune in and keep a close eye on PMQs, and if you can’t, Catch21 covers the PMQs every Wednesday where we hope you will join in with our tweeting.

If you want to follow @catch21p on twitter please click on the link.

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