Ugly scenes in the British parliament during its most televised Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQ) are upsetting voters, a Hansard Society survey has revealed. It revealed “noisy”, “childish”, “over the top” and “pointless” were common words associated with PMQs. Twothirds of respondents agreed PMQs involved too much party political pointscoring while 47% said the event was “too noisy and aggressive”. The report, which examined public attitudes to PMQs, found only 5% who disagree that there is too much party political point-scoring instead of answering the questions.

PMQs are best known aspect of the parliament’s work, famous throughout the world for its combative, adversarial atmosphere. It is the bit of parliament’s work that the public are most aware of and have likely seen on television news. “Supporters of PMQs in its current form argue that it is great parliamentary drama, envied by citizens in other countries whose leaders are rarely held to account in public,” said Hansard Society research director Ruth Fox.

“But our focus group research shows that the drama and theatre of the event is not appreciated in a positive way. In the dismissive words of one participant, ‘this was noise and bluster and showing off – theatrical but not good’.” Fox said PMQs are a cue for the public’s wider perceptions of parliament. “It provides a lot of the raw material that feeds their negative assumptions about politicians.” Fox said the public think the conduct of MPs is childish and wouldn’t be tolerated in other work places. “They think politicians are simply not taking the issues that affect their lives seriously enough.”

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