Punch and Judy Politics review – the unique ordeal of Prime Minister’s Questions

An invaluable study by Ayesha Hazarika and Tom Hamilton of the Wednesday PM quizzing tells of arrogance, fear and astonishing preparation

It is 11 years, to the month, since Tony Blair left Downing Street. Yet by his own account, before noon every Wednesday, wherever he is in the world, he still feels an icy chill – an instinctual reaction to the imminence of prime minister’s questions.

On paper, PMQs should not hold such terror. The prime minister needs simply to show up in the House of Commons once a week and answer 40 minutes of questions from MPs, half from their own side and half from the other, including six from the opposition leader. But as this new study makes clear, the event has a significance far greater than its parts.

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Punch and Judy Politics review – the unique ordeal of Prime Minister’s Questions

An invaluable study by Ayesha Hazarika and Tom Hamilton of the Wednesday PM quizzing tells of arrogance, fear and astonishing preparation

It is 11 years, to the month, since Tony Blair left Downing Street. Yet by his own account, before noon every Wednesday, wherever he is in the world, he still feels an icy chill – an instinctual reaction to the imminence of prime minister’s questions.

On paper, PMQs should not hold such terror. The prime minister needs simply to show up in the House of Commons once a week and answer 40 minutes of questions from MPs, half from their own side and half from the other, including six from the opposition leader. But as this new study makes clear, the event has a significance far greater than its parts.

Continue reading...

Closet Queens by Michael Bloch review – who knew there were so many gay MPs?

A history of homosexual politicians over the past 130 years entertains and surprises

This is a study of the secret lives of politicians. Until 1967 (and for a further 13 years in Scotland and 15 in Northern Ireland), male homosexuality was a criminal offence in Britain. Even after legalisation, it would be many years before any ambitious politician dared own up to being gay or bisexual. Labour MP Chris Smith, in 1984, was the first.

Since then attitudes have transformed. A succession of recent reforms – equalisation of the age of consent, the legalisation of same-sex marriages, the right of gay couples to adopt – have been received with equanimity by the great British public. What was once deemed fatal to a career in politics is now of no relevance.

Related: Gay rights around the world: the best and worst countries for equality

Labour's Tom Driberg spent a lot of ...