Corbyn unleashes ‘new style’ PMQs on Cameron

The new leader of Britain's opposition Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn and British Prime Minister David Cameron © Peter Nicholls, Mohamed Azakir
Newly-elected Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has unveiled his “new style” Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) in the House of Commons, in which he hammered Tory PM David Cameron with six questions drawn from the general public.

Cameron said he welcomed the new system, answering questions on the housing crisis, the tax credit cut and squeezed mental health services before a packed house.

He pledged to make PMQs a debating session that focuses on “truth” rather than mere “theatrics.” Critics have suggested Corbyn failed to attack the Prime Minister’s responses, saying he gave the PM a free platform to deal out party lines.

Others, however, said the new format would give disillusioned voters who disliked the arrogance of mudslinging-matches the opportunity to engage in sensible debate.

Corbyn has previously pledged to overhaul the format of PMQs, saying that his six main questions could be shared out between other party members, and even inviting members of the public to submit questions online.

Over 40,000 questions were submitted before the session.

Corbyn is still recovering from the ire of British media on Tuesday when he attended a Battle of Britain commemoration ceremony, but refrained from singing the national anthem.

The act of defiance made the front page of numerous British titles including the Times, the Telegraph, the Mirror and the Sun.

The Labour leader was criticized by the former head of the Navy, Lord West, who said the armed forces would be offended by Corbyn’s decision not to sing.

“I think [the military] will be offended, and a large number of people in this country will be offended by it and I think extraordinary is the right word, but they will be offended by it as well and I think that should have been thought through,” he said.

The Labour leader was also under pressure to redress any splits already forming in the newly-appointed shadow cabinet.

Following his speech on Tuesday at the Trade Union Congress (TUC) conference in Brighton, Corbyn was contradicted by the freshly-installed shadow work and pensions secretary Owen Smith.

Corbyn told the conference that Tory ministers are “declaring war” on workers with the Trade Union Bill and had “knowingly” passed welfare changes which had resulted in suicides.

“As far as I am concerned, the amendments we are putting forward are to remove the whole idea of the benefit cap altogether,” he said.

But Owen Smith later told Newsnight that Labour would only oppose government plans to reduce the benefit cap from £26,000 to £23,000 (US$40,000 to $35,400), saying it would be “foolhardy” to oppose a policy which had public support.

I think the truth is we still must support overall reductions in welfare spending. I think we have also got to have limits on what individuals and individual families can draw down,” he said.

“Can I be clear – our policy is to oppose the Welfare Bill which includes the reduction from £26,000 to £23,000 on the benefit cap for individual households.”

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