Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
26 October 2011

50 years of PMQs: the best moments

The best videos, including "Stalin to Mr Bean", "we saved the world" and "calm down, dear!"

By George Eaton

This week marks 50 years since the first PMQs (Harold Macmillan vs. Hugh Gaitskell, since you ask). So, by way of celebration, here are some of the most memorable moments from the weekly joust.

Blair on Major: “weak, weak, weak”

Here, from his clashes with John Major, are two of Tony Blair’s most artful put-downs. In the first clip from 25 May 1995, the young Labour leader taunts Major’s inability to control his anti-European backbenchers. “There is one very big difference – I lead my party, he follows his.” Major later described it in his memoirs as “the best one-liner he ever used against me”.

In the second from 30 January 1997 (again concerning Europe), Blair brands Major “weak, weak, weak” for failing to impose a joint line on the euro.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A weekly dig into the New Statesman’s archive of over 100 years of stellar and influential journalism, sent each Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy

Cameron to Blair: “you were the future once”

And here’s the “heir to Blair” in action at his first PMQs, telling his rival “you were the future once” and reprimanding the Labour chief whip for “shouting like a child”.

Cable on Brown: “Stalin to Mr Bean”

It was Andrew Turnball, the former head of the civil service, who declared in March 2007 that Gordon Brown operated with “Stalinist ruthlessness“. But eight months later, after a run on Northern Rock, the loss of 25 million child benefit records and another donations scandal, the description no longer seemed so appropriate. Vince Cable, then acting leader of the Lib Dems, caught the mood when he quipped that Brown had gone “from Stalin to Mr Bean” in a matter of weeks.

Brown: “we saved the world”

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman memorably asked: “Has Gordon Brown, the British prime minister, saved the world financial system?” and answered in the affirmative. But Krugman’s praise appeared to have gone to Brown’s head when he told the Commons: “we saved the world”. His humourless response (Blair would have quipped “we’ll get round to that later”) only made matters worse.

Cameron to Angela Eagle: “calm down, dear!”

Finally, from earlier this year, here’s Cameron’s ill-advised riposte to Angela Eagle. For an idea of how the remark went down with the Lib Dems, just contrast Nick Clegg’s stony face with George Osborne’s guffawing.