The recent news that young people are being turned off politics, and that the turnout in future elections could decrease to 30% or so has much to do with them seeing PMQs, so well described by Donald Macintyre as the "weekly display of raucousness". (Independent,27/12/13) Viewing our elected representatives on all sides behaving like a bottom set year 10 with a supply teacher last lesson on Friday afternoon is unlikely to persuade our economically challenged youth to visit a polling booth on election day. Macintyre is absolutely right to say that Miliband here "has a key role" and "could do much to change the tone", and, in fact, he should see a different approach to PMQs as an electoral opportunity too good to be missed.
For starters he should be demanding the Speaker insist that all questions are responded to by the prime minister with actual answers rather than political-point scoring, as the rules say should happen. The gladitorial circus of braying could be ended by Labour MPs being told to act with decorum and actually refrain from shouting insults and waving papers; by remaining seated, unless asking a question, their side of the House would make the government benches look more foolish than usual, especially if their questions avoided repetition and overlap.
The Tories, of course, are quite happy to carry on with unreformed PMQs, as Cameron much prefers to throw insults, rather than having to answer challenging questions about the existence of an economic recovery when there are so many households in debt, increasing numbers of foodbanks and cases of malnutrition, and the only new jobs are part-time, with zero hours contracts. If Labour is serious in its attempts to woo the younger and disillusioned voters, its behaviour at PMQs, like its policies, has to be markedly different from that of the Tories.