07 December, 2011

Some Right Honourable Mud-Slinging

One thing I would love to see imported into American political life is the regulated shouting match that is Prime Minister's Questions (or "PMQ" to the in crowd).  PMQ is a half hour of pure, unadulterated government transparency -- or something like that -- every Wednesday at noon.  The leader of the opposing party is allowed to ask the Prime Minister up to six questions during the session, while other MPs must put their names in a sort of lottery and hope to be randomly selected to ask their question.

The questions cover almost any topic you could imagine.  This is one reason I enjoy it so much; no issue is too small for consideration in this weekly audience with the leader of the Queen's government, giving small, rural constituencies a forum in which to make their concerns known right alongside those of higher-profile areas.  In one moment the PM is fielding a question regarding Britain's future in the European Union, and the next moment he is asked for a reaction to the recent flooding in Little-Toddersfleet-on-the-Wold.  Just today David Cameron was grilled on the topic of a referendum on the Euro area, but also on whether he felt it is necessary to make changes to Britain's fishing rights laws.  Only in Britain.

Prime Minister's Questions is a fascinating blend of incredibly passionate politics contained by the dignified language and rules of engagement that Americans expect of Brits.  Members preface thinly veiled insults by addressing each other as "the right honourable gentleman"; they shout "here, here"; they jump from their seats and bicker across the aisle with opposing members until the Speaker has to call for order.  There is actually a red line in the carpet on either side of the room, which the members are not allowed to cross...maybe a vestige of earlier, more violent times in Britain's political history. :-)

It can get ugly, but at the root I think it's a really excellent practice that we Yanks might do well to adopt.  I would love to see our President going beyond the occasional tightly controlled press conference or "town hall" meeting, instead fielding direct, unscreened questions from Congressional members on a weekly basis, responding to broad policy matters as well as very localized concerns.  It may be a small thing, but it's an effort toward consistency and accountability from those at the top.

Check out this example of a rather heated Prime Minister's Questions...

2 comments:

Peter said...

The entire Wikipedia article on the PMQ is wonderful, and makes me laugh out loud. I am deeply concerned that I was born in the wrong English-speaking world power.

Ginny said...

I know! I find it hilarious, touching, ridiculous, incredibly smart, etc...
P.S. You're just a plane ride away from living in the right English-speaking world power :-)