Jeremy Corbyn knows he has a lot to prove at his party’s conference, which starts on Sunday. The highlight of his leadership so far has been his new tone at PMQs, which did catch attention, even if the questions he asked rather turned the session into an opportunity for David Cameron to look Prime Ministerial. The Labour leader knows he needs to make changes from that first attempt (his first ever stint at the dispatch box), but he’s not the only one mulling how to manage the session.
A number of Tory MPs have told me that they have received a good load of letters and emails since that PMQs session from constituents impressed by Corbyn’s new style. They might not be particularly impressed with Corbyn as a potential Prime Minister (he is the first leader in 30 years to start out with a negative approval rating), but they do like the way the session wasn’t just a load of people roaring at one another for half an hour. Tories have passed these comments on to Downing Street to urge Cameron to try to adopt a similar tone in future exchanges, whoever is opposite him, and however annoying they happen to be.
However, Speaker Bercow argued earlier this week that the new tone would need to continue for months in order for the public to notice it and find it truly impressive – and one MP who is no fan of David Cameron’s style says ‘most of my constituents couldn’t give a toss either way’ about the new format. But as it benefits Cameron to keep the session civil, given his tendency to make sour comments when he loses his temper during rowdy PMQs stints, there’s no reason for him to try to drag it back to being a shouting match.