PMQ’s — a sign of things to come?
After seeing Corbyn rise from rank outsider to front-runner, then winner of the Labour leadership contest, one thing that cannot be in question is his sincerity and conviction in his beliefs. He has already been attacked personally by most sections of the media, and has had his historical political beliefs cherry-picked to fit in with an overtly anti-Corbyn agenda. He is not your archetypal politician for a number of reasons, but what sets him apart from the majority of the others is that he answers questions when put to him. This will sadly get him into hot water in the future but this honesty and openness is a delight to behold.
With this sincerity on full display Corbyn is hoping to offer “straight talking, honest politics” and his first opportunity came at Prime Minister’s Questions last week. He posed questions to the PM that were sent in by ordinary people that he had canvassed via email. He had over 40,000 questions to choose from and the openness this approach fostered was a breath of fresh air, bringing the people into the House of Commons. Cameron stuck to his usual approach, delivering scripted answers, showing that he is out of touch with the day-to-day lives of ordinary people. His constant desire to discredit Labour on the economy and promote ideologically loaded responses was most obvious when he managed to talk about the economy, more specifically Labour’s economic credentials, despite being asked about a lack of access to mental health support.
The economy is, of course, an important element of our lives and prosperity. However, despite what the tories will continue to tell us (regardless of the question asked as the above highlights), it is not everything. In reality, the economy is, for the majority of us, some ethereal abstract entity that we know very very little about, and The Conservatives thrive on that. They are experts at delivering empty soundbites that bring any question asked back to the topic they want to propagate; “long-term economic plan” anyone? These scripted rehearsed, robotic, meaningless phrases helped them win the last election and led to visceral opinions and fears. What they also did was deflect any engagement with the policy. “Do you agree in us cutting the welfare state to pre-1930 levels that will plunge millions into poverty and allows us to offer tax cuts to large corporations and high earners?” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it…..
We may not know about the economy but we do know about our everyday interactions and experiences with other people and the impact government policy has on us. Things like the time we wait to get a GP appointment, the care our family gets, how much money we have left at the end of the week are all a direct consequence of our esteemed colleagues in Westminster. We also have awareness of people who may not be in our immediate social sphere, but they still need to be relevant and in our conscience if we are to progress as a country and a society. Jeremy Corbyn’s “People’s” PMQs brought real-life examples of people affected by Tory policy to the forefront of the debate, above the rhetoric. If Corbyn keeps this tactic up not only in PMQs but in general conversations then Cameron and The Tories will then have to do something they aren’t comfortable with: engage in debate. Maybe then they will be forced to move away from the ‘straight-bat’ pre-prepared answers they are used to offering and everyone engages with their policies and questions their approach.