Where’s Betty Boothroyd? PMQs diminished by Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer – The Yorkshire Post says

BOTH Boris Johnson and Sir Keir Starmer can both count themselves fortunate that Betty Boothroyd was not in the Speaker’s chair for Prime Minister’s Questions on the 60th anniversary of its inception.

This was Boris Johnson answering questions remotely at Prime Minister's Questions where Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer tabled six questions.

She would, in all likelihood, have called both leaders out of order – Sir Keir for six convoluted questions lacking incisiveness and Mr Johnson for the contemptible evasiveness that has become his hallmark.

Their attempts at theatrics, and cack-handed attempts at trying to craft soundbites for broadcast clips on national television, do diminish from the importance of the occasion – a chance to hold the Prime Minister to account.

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It is an inquisition that can make or break premiers and political careers – more so since the decision was taken in 1989 to broadcast proceedings on television – and Mr Johnson cavalier approach stems as much from the calibre of his inquistors than his own shortcomings. That said, the fact he answered questions from Chequers, where he remains in self-isolation, does set an important precedent for the future.

Boris Johnson responded to Prime Minister's Questions from Chequers where he is in self-isolation.

Covid – and the extent to which Parliament has had to embrace digital technology – should lessen the ability of Mr Johnson, or his successors, to absent themselves from PMQs in the future.

And as Parliament adjourns this week for a summer recess that will, once again, be dominated by the Covid pandemic, and the critical decisions being taken by the Government, there’s frankly no excuse for Ministers to avoid decisions being scrutinised by MPs – even if it means
proceedings being conducted ‘virtually’.

If the occasion demands it, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the current Speaker, should not hesitate to exercise the necessary recall powers – it is what Baroness Boothroyd would be doing if she was calling the shots.

It’s also called the public interest.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer at PMQs.

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Baroness Betty Boothroyd is a former Speaker of the House of Commons.