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Will there be a reversal of fortune? By the time you read this, we’ll know!

Contributed by editor on Nov 21, 2007 - 09:29 PM

Howard's Way.... a weekly column from the Rt. Hon. Michael Howard QC. MP. 

22 November 2007

 

Last week I went on Radio 5 Live to talk about Prime Minister’s Questions – a topic of endless fascination to the political classes but not, I suspect, to most of the rest of the world.

Do they matter? Does a Party Leader have to be good at them? Are they just another bit of political theatre or can they determine the outcome of General Elections?

To which the answers, roughly speaking are:- a bit, yes and a bit of both.

The reason why they matter, at least a bit, is that some people do notice and Members of Parliament notice a lot.

P.M.Q’s are the big event of the Parliamentary week and they do fulfil an important constitutional function. They are a central element in that fundamental responsibility of Parliament – holding the Government to account.

The opportunity to put questions directly to the head of that Government, the Prime Minister, is therefore an important moment. And if the Prime Minister performs well his backbenchers will feel cheerful. If he does not, they will feel gloomy. And if a pattern of poor performance is established, party morale really suffers.

The same is, of course, true of the Leader of the Opposition – and also the Leader of the Liberal Democrats. Had Menzies Campbell made a better fist of PMQ’s in his early weeks of leadership he might have avoided the difficulties which ultimately proved fatal to his leadership.

At the moment David Cameron is in the ascendant. That means that Conservative M.P’s look forward to PMQ’s with growing enthusiasm – Gordon Brown is having a difficult time – Labour M.P’s look forward with a sense of foreboding.

But the unexpected often happens. I am writing this before this week’s PMQ’s. Will there be a reversal of fortune? By the time you read this, we’ll know!