UK Labour leader Corbyn takes on ritual at first Cameron duel

Updated: 2015-09-16 21:47


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UK Labour leader Corbyn takes on ritual at first Cameron duel

The new leader of Britain's opposition Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn addresses the Trade Union Congress (TUC) in Brighton in southern England, September 15, 2015. [Photo/Agencies]

LONDON - Britain's hard-left opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn took aim at parliamentary ritual on Wednesday in his first official confrontation with Prime Minister David Cameron, saying he wanted the voices of ordinary people to be heard.

Corbyn, elected leader of the Labour party at the weekend, said Prime Minister's Questions, a weekly verbal joust when arguments over policy are often reduced to pithy, sometimes personal, barbs, was too theatrical and "out of touch".

Wearing a beige suit, Corbyn said he wanted to change how the questioning session, more commonly known as PMQs, was conducted, and rather than lawmakers asking questions, had asked people to pose questions to the prime minister.

He said he received 40,000 questions.

"Many told me that they thought that Prime Minister's Question time was too theatrical, that parliament was out of touch and too theatrical, and that they wanted things done differently, and above all they wanted their voice heard in parliament," Corbyn told a packed parliament, where some lawmakers were forced to stand on the stairs.

In the age of rolling 24-hour news, PMQs which were formalised in the late 19th century, have become more combative, with witty put downs drowning out questions about government policy or direction.

A misplaced comment can backfire - Cameron was criticised for once telling a woman lawmaker to "calm down dear" during an exchange.

Cameron was bolstered though in his first exchange as leader of the Conservative party in 2005, when he told former Prime Minister Tony Blair that he was "the future once".