New Labour leader attempts to bring fresh style to House of Commons politics

Vidya Ram London | Updated on January 22, 2018

The new leader of Britain's opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, gestures as he acknowledges applause after addressing the Trade Union Congress (TUC) in Brighton in southern England   -  REUTERS

Calls for parliament to ditch the “theatrical,” and “out of touch” approach it is known for

Along with other legislatures across the world, Britain’s House of Commons has acquired a reputation for a combative, confrontational “Yah-boo” style of debate. And nowhere has it more obvious than at the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions where, over the years, the half hour of questioning of the Prime Minister by the leader of the Opposition and other politicians has often descended into fractious and unproductive exchanges.

Jeremy Corbyn, who took over as leader of the Labour party in a decisive victory over the weekend, put his pledge of delivering a “new style” of politics to the test during Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, as he called for parliament to ditch the “theatrical,” and “out of touch” approach it had become known for. Instead people wanted a change in conduct and their “voice heard in Parliament,” he told the tightly packed gallery. The new leader chose to focus his line of questioning on some of the 40,000 responses the party had got to its appeal for questions from its membership and supporter base.

Prime Minister David Cameron said he welcomed the opportunity to make PMQs a more genuine exercise, answering Corbyn’s questions on housing policy, cuts to tax credits for those on low income, and mental health services.

While some on Twitter questioned whether Corbyn’s style was tough enough to enable him to hold the Prime Minister to account in the way necessary, reception to his approach was broadly positive. “We’ve had years and years of talking about a People’s Question… @jeremycorbyn has had 3 days and he’s done it,” wrote one Twitter user.

Corbyn’s appearance on Wednesday came after he faced a barrage of criticism in the mainstream British press over the structure of his shadow cabinet, including the appointment of avowed socialist John McDonnell as shadow chancellor, and failing to sing the national anthem at a memorial ceremony on Tuesday.

Since winning the party leadership Corbyn has continued the unconventional approach he has been known for — the day after his victory he chose to participate in a community event in his local constituency over a high-profile appearance on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show.

Published on September 16, 2015

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