Thursday, 20 June 2013


Charlie has been watching Prime Minister's Questions (h/t Rebecca), which yesterday included a revealing reply to a question from Caroline Lucas, the UK's one Green Party MP.
Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion) (Green): The Government’s own research shows that there is a link between the portrayal of women as sex objects in the media and greater acceptance of sexual harassment and violence against women. That being the case, will the Prime Minister join me in trying to get our own House in order and calling on the parliamentary authorities to stop The Sun being available on the parliamentary estate until page 3 is scrapped, and will he have a word with his friend Rupert Murdoch about it while he is at it?

The Prime Minister: I am glad the hon. Lady got her question asked after the dazzling T-shirt that she was wearing last week failed to catch Mr Speaker’s eye. I am afraid I do not agree with her. It is important that we can read all newspapers on the parliamentary estate, including The Sun
(Text from Hansard.)
The contrast with Cameron's approach to other questions is striking.  The political point-scoring from Labour members he answered with point-scoring of his own, but other questions he dealt with courteously.  Here for example is his reply to a question for Labour MP Hazel Blears about unpaid internships:
The Prime Minister: The right hon. Lady is doing some important work in this area. It is a difficult area to get right, because we all know from our own experiences that some short-term unpaid internships—work experience—can be very valuable for the people taking part. On the other hand, unpaid interns should not be employed instead of workers to avoid the national minimum wage. That is the balance that we have to get right, and I commend the right hon. Lady for the important work that she is doing.
It's as if he thinks that stopping exploitation of interns is important, but violence against women is an issue best addressed by making jokes about what one's questioner was wearing a week ago.

Rather than read the text, one can watch PMQs on video.  That takes much longer than is merited by what is said, but one can enjoy the demeanour of the front benches.  In this broadcast, Theresa Villiers, sitting four to the left of Cameron, is the one to watch when she comes into shot.  She seems reasonably enough to think she's got better things to do than listen to boys calling each other names, but she does her best to listen politely.  At 4:17 she smiles at Cameron's cutting remarks about Ed Balls.  At 10:19 she smiles in support of his congratulations to Edward Leigh on his knighthood.  At 16:49 she looks bored with Cameron's reply to a question about child poverty (he blames Labour and the Speaker cuts him off), and at 20:21 she's no more interested in an exchange about William Cash's Gender Equality (International Development) Bill (Cash invites Cameron to support the Bill, and Cameron does so, but not to the extent of encouraging anyone to vote for it).  At 26:02 she's interested enough in a question about the Health Service to exchange a few words with Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary.

Lucas asks her question at 26:10.  At 26:56 Cameron steps back, having finished his reply, revealing Hunt and Kenneth Clarke smiling at his jest, and Villiers between them glowering stonily.

I'd like to think that she had a quiet word with him after, pointing out that he could have expressed his abhorrence at violence against women while still supporting freedom of the press and the right of MPs to inform themselves by looking at the pictures in The Sun.

1 comment:

  1. Maybe he just doesn't believe the research and/or resents being tarred with the Murdoch brush when the data shows that Murdoch had a greater frequency of contacts with the previous government? Or maybe handing over control of the parliamentary estate to a single-MP party is undemocratic? Not that I have *ever* bought the Sun since the TUC sold it to Murdoch, but if I wanted to introduce Soviet-era censorship I could find other paces to start. When I have to commute into London I see more women than men reading the Sun: I haven't noticed any of them reacting to page three by stripping off their blouse and bra - maybe I've been too busy working or maybe the Sun doesn't have that powerful an influence on behaviour.