Ed Miliband during Prime Minister's Question Time.
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Miliband calls for public question time for Prime Ministers

Labour leader says voters should be able to ask the Prime Minister questions in the Palace of Westminster. 

Ed Miliband's interview with Andrew Marr, conducted in the relaxed setting of his back garden, contained one striking new idea: a public question time for Prime Ministers. 

After praising Nick Clegg for engaging with voters through his radio phone-in show "Call Clegg", Miliband said: 

I think what we need is a public question time, where regularly, the Prime Minister submits himself or herself to questioning from members of the public in the Palace of Westminster on Wednesdays. And why is that important? Because I want to let the public into our politics. 

This would involve the Prime Minister taking questions from members of the public at least fortnightly, and possibly weekly, following the session with MPs in the Commons. Those asking questions would, Labour says, "be chosen by a method to ensure a wide representation of the country and political backgrounds."

Miliband told Marr that he would make a "formal proposal" to the Speaker, whom he had talked to "many times before" about reforming PMQs. 

He added: 

At the moment there's the glass that separates, a few inches glass, separates the public in the gallery from the members of the House of Commons. But there is a gulf a mile's wide between the kind of politics people want and what Prime Minister's Questions offers.

It's a smart idea, and one that David Cameron and Nick Clegg will struggle to oppose: which party leader can afford to be in favour of less engagement with the public? My initial thought was that Cameron could simply embrace the idea and claim the credit (with few voters aware it originated from Miliband), but Labour has emphasised that it would not be introduced until after "the next election". 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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What Jeremy Corbyn gets right about the single market

Technically, you can be outside the EU but inside the single market. Philosophically, you're still in the EU. 

I’ve been trying to work out what bothers me about the response to Jeremy Corbyn’s interview on the Andrew Marr programme.

What bothers me about Corbyn’s interview is obvious: the use of the phrase “wholesale importation” to describe people coming from Eastern Europe to the United Kingdom makes them sound like boxes of sugar rather than people. Adding to that, by suggesting that this “importation” had “destroy[ed] conditions”, rather than laying the blame on Britain’s under-enforced and under-regulated labour market, his words were more appropriate to a politician who believes that immigrants are objects to be scapegoated, not people to be served. (Though perhaps that is appropriate for the leader of the Labour Party if recent history is any guide.)

But I’m bothered, too, by the reaction to another part of his interview, in which the Labour leader said that Britain must leave the single market as it leaves the European Union. The response to this, which is technically correct, has been to attack Corbyn as Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland are members of the single market but not the European Union.

In my view, leaving the single market will make Britain poorer in the short and long term, will immediately render much of Labour’s 2017 manifesto moot and will, in the long run, be a far bigger victory for right-wing politics than any mere election. Corbyn’s view, that the benefits of freeing a British government from the rules of the single market will outweigh the costs, doesn’t seem very likely to me. So why do I feel so uneasy about the claim that you can be a member of the single market and not the European Union?

I think it’s because the difficult truth is that these countries are, de facto, in the European Union in any meaningful sense. By any estimation, the three pillars of Britain’s “Out” vote were, firstly, control over Britain’s borders, aka the end of the free movement of people, secondly, more money for the public realm aka £350m a week for the NHS, and thirdly control over Britain’s own laws. It’s hard to see how, if the United Kingdom continues to be subject to the free movement of people, continues to pay large sums towards the European Union, and continues to have its laws set elsewhere, we have “honoured the referendum result”.

None of which changes my view that leaving the single market would be a catastrophe for the United Kingdom. But retaining Britain’s single market membership starts with making the argument for single market membership, not hiding behind rhetorical tricks about whether or not single market membership was on the ballot last June, when it quite clearly was. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.