“Nobody was like Hague,” he says. One example was when Cameron referenced the Labour leader’s narrow victory over his brother, and former foreign secretary, David in the party’s 2010 leadership election. “It’s a weekly test of showmanship, of whether somebody is sharp, whether they have flexibility, humour and a sense of flair. Forensic. The greatest representation of Westminster’s gladiatorial spirit has to be Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs). Also Read: ‘A weekly test of showmanship’: Does PMQs shape public opinion? whatsapp Tory peer and journalist Lord Daniel Finkelstein and former chancellor George Osborne prepared Hague for PMQs every week while he was opposition leader. “It does end up influencing the tone of reporting, which carries forward to other reporting and narratives around leaders.” Also Read: ‘A weekly test of showmanship’: Does PMQs shape public opinion? The screeching interjections, snide personal attacks and fits of laughter from puce-faced MPs only add to the feelings of tribal warfare. Finkelstein said that PMQs primarily affects perceptions among MPs, political operatives and journalists, which can then have a knock-on effect to the general public. Hamilton, who co-wrote Punch and Judy Politics: An Insiders Guide to Prime Minister’s Questions, said this happened on several occasions during Miliband’s battles with David Cameron. Show Comments ▼ “The real point of PMQs is party management in either government or opposition,” he says. The special advisers would spend hours on Tuesday night and the entirety of Wednesday morning strategising for PMQs with the opposition leader. “He just needs to be be competent, and not be Jeremy Corbyn, and then wait for the government to fall over.” The trio would role play potential scenarios, with Osborne – who Finkelstein assures me can do excellent impressions – pretending to be Blair. Since becoming Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer has been lauded for his efforts at PMQs among the political commentariat, who love to use that already cliched adjective to describe his performances. While it is certainly possible – if not probable – that we will see the opposition leader monster the Prime Minister every week at PMQs for the next five years, will it even matter for those outside the SW1 bubble? “As a prime minister, Blair was very hard to beat, but Hague is the best I’ve seen. When asked about speculation that Cameron would sack his foreign secretary in 2011, the Prime Minister responded: “There’s only one person I can remember around here knifing a foreign secretary and I think I’m looking at him.” ‘A weekly test of showmanship’: Does PMQs shape public opinion? “Blair and Hague’s speed of thought was just incredible to watch…I think that most people would agree that they were something to behold.” “It does filter through to a wider group, because all of the MPs and reporters watch it,” he says. “You really have to be able to distinguish between signal and noise – there are lot of fantastic moments, but they often don’t mean anything.” Ultimately, it mattered little to the general public – Blair clobbered the Conservatives in the 2001 election and walked away with a 167-seat majority. Pascoe-Watson said Starmer would do well to use PMQs to establish himself in the minds of voters as a safe pair of hands. While the Westminster press gallery may revel in the political bloodsport, does anyone with hobbies outside watching old Michael Cockerell documentaries actually care? In Blair’s case, he was among the most popular first-term prime ministers ever and PMQs was never going to make much of a difference come polling day. His sober and measured tone has been suited to the new socially distanced arena, giving the former human rights lawyer ample time and space to pick apart Boris Johnson and his deputies over their response to Covid-19. Also Read: ‘A weekly test of showmanship’: Does PMQs shape public opinion? Former Ed Miliband adviser Tom Hamilton said PMQs often reinforces how the public already see a prime minister or opposition leader. Former political editor of The Sun George Pascoe-Watson said any effect PMQs has on the public is indirect. “PMQs may have an impact on party confidence in the leader, which can have other knock-on effects,” Finkelstein says. Stefan Boscia After just a handful of sessions, Starmer’s performances have got many Labour supporters and media outriders cooing about his leadership abilities. “That comment just reiterated the feeling that Ed was a second choice for the leadership and was meant to carry through to the public that he was a bit weird,” Hamilton says. Before the Open newsletter: Start your day with the City View podcast and key market data “He doesn’t need to be Elton John up there – he just needs to be competent and ask good questions,” he says. MPs pack themselves onto the House of Commons benches every sitting Wednesday to watch and engage in the high political drama, which often has the feeling of a schoolyard brawl. So, where then does all this leave the current Labour leader? Finkelstein is still awestruck by Hague’s preternatural ability as a House of Commons performer. Also Read: ‘A weekly test of showmanship’: Does PMQs shape public opinion? Hamilton believes that these sort of exchanges can impact public opinion, with the parliamentary press gallery acting as a conduit. “When you’re a prime minister with a small majority, or no majority like in Theresa May’s case, a good performance can you can get through the week and give your MPs a spring in their step.” whatsapp Share Wednesday 3 June 2020 7:00 am More From Our Partners Native American Tribe Gets Back Sacred Island Taken 160 Years Agogoodnewsnetwork.orgKansas coach fired for using N-word toward Black playerthegrio.comAstounding Fossil Discovery in California After Man Looks Closelygoodnewsnetwork.orgMan on bail for murder arrested after pet tiger escapes Houston homethegrio.comRussell Wilson, AOC among many voicing support for Naomi Osakacbsnews.comPolice Capture Elusive Tiger Poacher After 20 Years of Pursuing the Huntergoodnewsnetwork.orgFans call out hypocrisy as Tebow returns to NFL while Kaepernick is still outthegrio.comBrave 7-Year-old Boy Swims an Hour to Rescue His Dad and Little Sistergoodnewsnetwork.orgA ProPublica investigation has caused outrage in the U.S. this weekvaluewalk.com‘Neighbor from hell’ faces new charges after scaring off home buyersnypost.comFort Bragg soldier accused of killing another servicewoman over exthegrio.comBiden received funds from top Russia lobbyist before Nord Stream 2 giveawaynypost.comPorsha Williams engaged to ex-husband of ‘RHOA’ co-star Falynn Guobadiathegrio.comWhy people are finding dryer sheets in their mailboxesnypost.comColin Kaepernick to publish book on abolishing the policethegrio.comKiller drone ‘hunted down a human target’ without being told tonypost.comLA news reporter doesn’t seem to recognize actor Mark Currythegrio.comFlorida woman allegedly crashes children’s birthday party, rapes teennypost.com Former Conservative leader William Hague was renowned for his abilities at the despatch box, consistently gaining the upper hand over Tony Blair between 1997 and 2001.