Boris Johnson has been Prime Minister since July, but he has done PMQs relatively few times. This means that he is still developing his style. What was striking about his appearance today was just how conciliatory his tone was with everyone but Jeremy Corbyn and Ian Blackford.
When Wera Hobhouse asked about the difficulties facing a Kurdish refugee in her constituency, Johnson replied that she should send the details of the case to him personally. Teesside Labour MP Alex Cunningham pushed him on a campaign to prevent nuclear waste being dumped in the region. The PM expressed sympathy and asked him to send the campaign to him. SNP MP Dave Doogan argued that the seasonal workers’ scheme for agriculture was nowhere near generous enough, Boris Johnson didn’t disagree. Instead he said the government was looking at it to see it was sufficient for the needs of agriculture in both Scotland and the rest of the UK. Ed Davey asked whether the Prime Minister would meet with him and bereavement charities to discuss a change to the benefits regime. The Tory leader immediately said yes.
This approach is not only Boris Johnson’s more natural mode but also quite effective in draining some of the partisan intensity from PMQs. It’ll be fascinating to see if this shift to a more conciliatory approach can survive PMQs becoming more of a bear pit, as it will when Labour has a new leader.
There were two interesting signs of things to come at PMQs today.
First, there were a couple of questions from Tory MPs with southern rural seats demanding that their part of the country mustn’t be left out of the government’s big infrastructure push.
Second, the Tories now want to link Nicola Sturgeon with Alex Salmond at every opportunity.