The Conservatives’ constant attacking of people, not policies, has finally been exposed to us all. Zac Goldsmith’s shameful campaign for London Mayor showed us that when criticised, the Tories are forced to resort to name-calling to defend themselves. It’s the tactic which turned Prime Minister’s Questions into political theatre, and the British public are completely fed up with it.
In September last year, Jeremy Corbyn spoke in PMQs about the ‘theatrical’ style of the parliamentary session and how this should be changed following his election as the new Labour leader. Since then, PMQs has only become more dramatic. Jeers, hollers and put-downs still occur in Parliament and even make the headlines – one of the most notable being the Prime Minister’s “put on a proper suit, do up your tie and sing the national anthem” comment which he made earlier this year.
Granted, Labour MPs have shouted and cheered in the House of Commons since suggesting a new style of PMQs, but Jeremy Corbyn has always refrained from put-downs and one-liners. The Labour leader’s jokes tend to be more on the side of ‘banter’, whilst David Cameron’s comments are hostile. In fact, this arguing between Labour and Tories during PMQs – including the aforementioned ‘do up your tie’ dig – were all referenced in a recent party political broadcast by the Green party. The problem with the video was that the Greens cant change ‘PMQ theatre’, and they ‘told us things the public already knew and hated: PMQs is a theatre and we hate the ‘childish’ way in which the Tories attack individual Labour candidates.
There’s even statistics to prove it. In a report by the Hansard Society, 67% of people surveyed agreed that ‘there is too much party political point-scoring instead of answering the question”. It’s not just that the Tories’ comments are harmful, but said comments are the Conservatives’ main way of avoiding accountability in a key session where the Prime Minister should be held to account. How is this fair to British voters?
These harsh attacks actually have a more formal name – known as an ‘ad hominem’ remark. It’s basically a fancy name for picking on the person, not the topic of conversation, and it’s been used in PMQs, as well as the recent mayoral election. Unlike Prime Minister’s Questions – where David Cameron can launch these ‘ad hominem’ attacks under the safety of parliamentary privilege and away from the public – the Conservative mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith chose to make hostile remarks in a key election. People of the UK have to put up with avoided questions and put-downs in PMQs, but when these take place outside of parliament and in front of the electorate, a vote for Sadiq Khan has proven that the public cannot tolerate racism and personal attacks by the Tories any longer.
Much like how Labour’s Naz Shah and Ken Livingstone prompted an investigation into anti-Semitism, let us hope that Zac Goldsmith’s flawed campaign encourages the Tories to focus on their own policies and accountability, rather than continuously attacking the opposition.