View all newsletters
Sign up to our newsletters

Support 110 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
28 March 2019updated 07 Jun 2021 12:45pm

Tory MPs abandon Theresa May at PMQs

By Patrick Maguire

One of the most striking things about watching Prime Minister’s Questions under Theresa May are the swathes of green leather visible in the Commons chamber. MPs are abandoning what was once the set-piece event of the parliamentary week in their droves, as Downing Street is discovering to its cost. 

Andrew Bowie, Theresa May’s parliamentary private secretary, has emailed all 313 of his colleagues to complain of the “very disappointing” uptake for the weekly ballot in which questions are assigned. Only 93 Conservative MPs submitted questions last week – well exceeded by 130 from Labour – and just one has their name on the order paper for next week. 

In his message, passed by a Tory source to the New Statesman, Bowie urged MPs who had not been successful in the ballot to “bob”, or attempt to catch the Speaker’s eye, in order to secure a question at Wednesday’s session – and to give No 10 advance notice of what they intended to ask. 

Dear Colleague,

As you may be aware, there will be an unusually large number of free hits available at PMQs next Wednesday (3rd April), as only one Conservative colleague was successful in the shuffle. 

Last week, only 93 Conservative colleagues submitted questions, compared with 130 for Labour. It goes without saying that these numbers are very disappointing and must improve if we are to continue to outpace Labour in the polls. 

The Prime Minister and her team would be very grateful if colleagues could be sure to enter the ballot each week.

Nevertheless, the large number of free hits provides a number of excellent opportunities for anyone who was unsuccessful in the shuffle or wasn’t able to table last week.
 
If you are planning to “bob” for a question, the Prime Minister would be very grateful if you could let me know at your earliest convenience what you are planning on asking. This will ensure that, if you are successful, she can give you a full and helpful response. Could I also ask colleagues that they give me an idea of what they are hoping to ask by 17:00 on Tuesday 2nd  so that the Questions Team at 10 Downing Street have time to prepare a comprehensive brief. 
 
As always, if you have any questions or I can be of any assistance, please do not hesitate to ask. 
 
Yours ever,

Andrew Bowie MP
PPS to the Prime Minister

The appeal provides more evidence – as if any were needed – of just how parlous a state both May’s premiership and her leadership of the Tory Party are in. On a practical level it is a mark that the government Whips’ Office, whose job it is to plant sympathetic interventions and softball questions, is just as weak and incompetent as Conservative MPs frequently complain it is. 

But more worryingly for the prime minister, the inability of her Whips to drum up anything more than a “very disappointing” number of PMQs speaks to the dearth of motivation on the government benches. Tory backbenchers are in no mood to be helpful – and there is no longer any political incentive to be so anyway. Taken together, that doesn’t bode well for the endgame of Brexit – or, indeed, May’s hopes for a dignified exit on her own terms.

Content from our partners
Unlocking the potential of a national asset, St Pancras International
Time for Labour to turn the tide on children’s health
How can we deliver better rail journeys for customers?

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team. The best way to sign up for The Green Transition is via spotlightonpolicy.substack.com
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU