Labour Chief Gives a Twist to a Ritual of Parliament

By Castle, Stephen | International New York Times, September 17, 2015 | Go to article overview

Labour Chief Gives a Twist to a Ritual of Parliament


Castle, Stephen, International New York Times


Jeremy Corbyn used the tradition of Prime Minister's Question Time to pass onto David Cameron concerns of ordinary citizens.

He was sober, serious and sometimes a little technical. But on Wednesday, Jeremy Corbyn, the new leader of the Labour Party, changed the tone of one of Britain's most storied political traditions -- the weekly parliamentary joust between the prime minister and the leader of the opposition -- and in so doing proved that sometimes it pays to be polite.

Facing one of the first big tests of his party leadership, Mr. Corbyn opted to crowd-source this part of his job, posing to Prime Minister David Cameron a selection of questions submitted by voters who, he said, offered more than 40,000 suggestions.

The result was a transformation of Prime Minister's Question Time, a weekly half-hour parliamentary ritual that routinely degenerates into point-scoring snippets, against a backdrop of yelling lawmakers.

His successful appearance provided a welcome boost for Mr. Corbyn, a left-winger who has faced criticism for not singing the national anthem at a ceremony on Tuesday to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, in which the Royal Air Force held off the German Luftwaffe during World War II.

Mr. Corbyn's disdain for the monarchy is well known -- he once called for the royal family to move to more modest dwellings. The national anthem, "God Save the Queen," poses a problem for a politician who has been lauded for his perceived sincerity and integrity.

Though Mr. Corbyn was elected to the party leadership on Saturday with an overwhelming mandate from party members and supporters who could vote, his backing among Labour lawmakers in Parliament is shallow, and he has faced internal dissent on several crucial policies. …

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