UK & World News

  • 27 July 2014, 22:16

Miliband Wants 'Public Question Time' For PM

Labour leader Ed Miliband has said he will give ordinary people the chance to directly question him if he becomes prime minister at the next General Election.

Mr Miliband says he has discussed the idea of a public question time with the Speaker of the House of Commons as part of plans to try and reform the much-criticised Prime Minister's Questions.

A petition recently launched by parenting forum Mumsnet calling for changes to PMQs has gained more than 60,000 signatures.

Inviting public critics to directly confront the country's political leader in Parliament would help re-engage citizens, Mr Miliband said.

"I think what we need is a public question time, where regularly the prime minister submits himself or herself to questioning from members of the public in the Palace of Westminster on Wednesdays," he told BBC1's Andrew Marr Show.

"Why is that important? Because I want to let the public in to our politics.

"At the moment there is the glass that separates the public in the gallery from the House of Commons, but there is a gulf miles wide between the kind of politics people want and what Prime Minister's Questions offers."

Mr Miliband praised Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg's decision to take part in a weekly radio phone-in and said he would take part in more himself.

But he said his public session might not take place every week, and insisted those invited "would not just be cheerleading Labour supporters".

Mr Miliband, who said voters "deserved a better debate", suggested the initiative was part of a fightback against critics of his leadership and "geeky" appearance and not a "gimmick".

"It is serious. I want to find ways to change our political culture. It's not just about photo opps - that is a problem - it is deep and it goes well beyond that," Mr Miliband said.

Mr Miliband said he had spotted the potential benefit of regular interaction with the public when Mr Clegg announced his weekly phone-ins on LBC radio.

"He got a whole load of bile about it when he did it and I remember saying to people 'actually, it's good thing to do'," he said.

Labour said the sessions would happen at least once a fortnight and possibly weekly, if they were approved by the Speaker, John Bercow.

A spokesman said questioners "would be chosen by a method to ensure a wide representation of the country and political backgrounds".

Prime Minister David Cameron held regular "Cameron Direct" meetings in town halls and other venues outside Westminster as opposition leader and has continued them, less regularly, in office.

Mr Bercow's office said it would examine any proposals submitted by Mr Miliband - which it said echoed similar reforms already submitted to a review.

A Number 10 spokesperson said: "The Prime Minister is open to new ways of engaging with the public.

"He already holds regular PM Directs, where he takes questions from members of the public in towns and cities across the country."

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