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27 July 2014

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. 

By George Eaton

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: 

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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”.