When I was elected leader of the Labour Party last September I was determined to bring a new kind of politics to Westminster. And as part of that, I made a commitment to do Prime Minister’s Questions in a different way as well.
The leadership campaign showed me that for many PMQs are out of touch, too theatrical, and simply not addressing the issues most people care about. So I tried something different – putting to David Cameron some of the thousands of questions sent to me by members of the public.
Today will mark my 100th question at PMQs. But while I’ve taken a different approach to asking the questions, David Cameron has carried on failing to give proper answers.
David Cameron once said he was “fed up with the Punch and Judy politics of Westminster”. But the experience of the last six months suggests he has come to rather enjoy it. When given the chance to defend his government’s record, he has instead preferred to opt for petty attacks, while avoiding the substance of the issue, and ignoring the real problems facing our people.
In my first PMQs I challenged the Prime Minister on his woeful housing record – something I’ve returned to since. But David Cameron has been unable or unwilling to explain a record that has seen five years of failure on housebuilding, soaring private rents and home ownership slipping beyond the reach of millions.
On health, I’ve raised the lack of funding for mental health services, cuts to social care, NHS deficits and the Tory Government’s botched handling of the junior doctors’ contract. But there have still been no coherent answers from David Cameron on why the NHS is going backwards on his watch.
And on the economy, I’ve raised the Tories’ unfair cuts to tax credits, and their secretive tax deal with Google. We were able to stop those tax credit cuts that were due to take effect next month.
But over two million working families are still set to have their incomes squeezed in future because of Tory cuts to the new Universal Credit. On Google, David Cameron has been unable to explain his and George Osborne’s fundamentally unfair approach to tax avoidance – making secret deals with large corporations while millions pay more.
From support for the steel industry, to cuts to flood defence schemes and the Tories’ cruel and unfair Bedroom Tax, David Cameron has been unable to defend his Government’s record at PMQs.
People want a different sort of politics. I’m determined to respond to that. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister has so far been unable to get beyond the political game-playing of the past.