For many, the highlight of the Parliamentary week is noon on Wednesday: Prime Minister’s Questions.
It can be quite frustrating at times, and not just because of the shouting!
As with all oral question sessions, you must submit questions a few days in advance. You can either do this on a form the Commons provides, or online through our internal website.
Then it’s a matter of being drawn out of the hat. I put one in every week, and after two and a half years, I have still never been drawn out for the list of fifteen MPs chosen each week. I am told it’s random!
Nigel Huddlestone is Tory MP for mid Worcestershire. He a friend of mine because he used to be on my select committee. Nigel has had seven (yes, seven) questions to the PM in the same period I have had none. Luck of the draw I guess.
But that brings its own problems. Because as a loyal Tory he doesn’t want to ask anything too difficult of Theresa May. So, when I moaned to Nigel about him getting a fifth PMQ, he complained back that he didn’t know what to ask because he had run out of straightforward questions. On that occasion he asked the PM about the importance of the asparagus crop in his Worcestershire constituency!
Mr Speaker makes his way down the order paper and alternates between government side and opposition side. He also has to call the Leader of the Opposition (Jeremy Corbyn gets six questions) and the SNP Leader (Ian Blackford, who gets two.)
Now, imagine there are lots more Conservative MPs pulled out the hat to ask a question than opposition parties. Because the speaker alternatives from side to side, he will run out of opposition MPs so will need to call MPs not on the order paper to even things up.
To indicate that you hope to be called, an MP must stand up and down “to catch the Speaker’s eye.” It’s known as “bobbing.”
And twice he has taken pity on me when I have been bobbing and has called me to ask a question.
To be honest it would be much easier to be on the order paper.
But spare a thought for the Prime Minister. They must be briefed and ready to answer on any subject across government. It is a tough ask. No wonder the current PM doesn’t always answer the question!