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  1. Election 2024
4 November 2015

Will Jeremy Corbyn abandon his new approach to PMQs?

Labour whips have been urging MPs to make more noise in the Chamber during the sparring sessions - suggesting that Jeremy Corbyn will abandon his new approach to PMQs. 

By Stephen Bush

Is Jeremy Corbyn going to return to the old-style of Prime Ministers’ Questions? 

Labour whips have been urging members of the parliamentary party to make more noise during the sessions, suggesting a return to the “Punch and Judy” style of the pre-Corbyn era. Corbyn’s innovations to PMQs – described in more detail by my colleague Stephanie here – have met a mixed response around Westminster. Some MPs – including many who are implacably opposed to the Corbyn leadership – believe that the changes make the affair a more civilised affair.

“It’s the only thing people watch and they saw a bunch of old men shouting at each other,” one MP reflected to me about the changes, “It was terrible for politics. But others – including Corbyn’s strongest allies – believe that the new format means that they are passing up the opportunity to attack the Conservatives. “Now we’re not offering a pale imitation [of the Tories], Cameron can’t say ‘How would you pay for it?’ every week,” argues one, “We should be ripping them to shreds.”

I described the first session as “the best possible outcome” for Corbyn – and thought, then and now, that changing the tone of PMQs could be a big early victory for someone who can only win a general election on a populist, anti-Westminster ticket. But my colleague George argued the opposite, saying that “if he maintains this tack in future weeks it is Cameron who will surely benefit”.

Last week, with the Conservatives on the back foot, Corbyn used what was effectively a hybrid model – combining questions from the public but then switching to the old back-and-forth. He recorded an unambiguous win over the Prime Minister, and it may be that the win has emboldened his team to abandon the new approach, or at least to continue with the modified approach. (The Labour party is still collecting questions from the public, suggesting that at the very least, elements of public questions will still be used.)

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