Downing Street pleads with Tory MPs to attend Theresa May's last PMQs

With fewer than 100 Conservatives showing up to recent PMQs, No 10 has urged MPs to show up to her valedictory session.

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It has been a long time since Theresa May commanded a full house at Prime Minister’s Questions. In recent weeks, fewer than 100 Conservative MPs have turned up to see their leader face off with Jeremy Corbyn – and swathes of green leather were visible months before she announced her resignation. 

Downing Street – via increasingly exasperated missives from Andrew Bowie, the Prime Minister’s parliamentary private secretary – has repeatedly tried to shame backbench truants into not just attending, but tabling softball questions for May’s benefit. With Tory minds focussed on the race to succeed her, Bowie’s attempts have been unsuccessful. 

But ahead of May’s final turn at the dispatch box next Wednesday, No 10 is having one last try. In an email to all Conservative MPs yesterday, Bowie urged his colleagues to "make the most of the opportunity to feature prominently" at May's final PMQs.

Dear Colleague,
 
As I'm sure you will be aware, next Wednesday (24th July) will be the Prime Minister's last PMQs in post.
 
As any Prime Minister's final PMQs is more closely watched than "ordinary" sessions, I am sure that colleagues will want to make the most of the opportunity to feature prominently. Accordingly, I have attached a blank table form for your convenience.

We anticipate that the Speaker will attempt to accommodate as many colleagues as possible, so if you are planning to "bob" for a question on the day, please do let me know.

With best wishes,

Andrew Bowie MP
PPS to the Prime Minister

Downing Street’s appeals for meat in the room have gone largely ignored of late. Will this time be different? If Tory MPs ignore the call for collegiality and empty pews are still visible despite the significance of next Wednesday’s occasion, it could well be a sign that the Conservative family will prove much more difficult to reunite than even the pessimists within its ranks anticipate.

Patrick Maguire is the New Statesman's political correspondent.