James Forsyth

Parliament needs PMQs back to normal

Parliament needs PMQs back to normal
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PMQs today descended into chaos. Boris Johnson was beaming in from Chequers, where he is self-isolating, and there were predictable tech gremlins. These disrupted the flow of the session and rendered it close to useless as a means of holding the Prime Minister to account. 

PMQs is meant to be the most difficult half an hour of the parliamentary week for the executive, the moment when its arguments are tested. But today’s session descended into Johnson sounding like a train traveller going through a series of tunnels as he repeatedly asked whether the House could hear him or said that he hadn’t quite heard the question.

Danny Finkelstein, a man with more experience of PMQs than most, writes perceptively in the Times today about how the sessions in a packed chamber could cause Johnson problems; remember he has only ever faced Jeremy Corbyn in front of a full house. But these hybrid sessions of PMQs with Johnson being beamed in just do not work.

Keir Starmer attempted a bit more swagger today. He said the Prime Minister needed a new three word slogan, ‘get a grip’. But he failed to really pin Johnson down, though the nature of these virtual sessions does make this almost impossible.

Today’s chamber wasn’t packed, MPs were still trying to maintain some distance. Let’s hope that by September, the situation allows for a packed House and a proper PMQs. Parliament, and our politics, desperately needs that injection of life.

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is political editor of The Spectator.

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