Prime Minister’sQuestions is a tradition of the British Parliament asa symbol of the unique political philosophy of British constitutional government. In keeping with parliamentary tradition, the Prime Minister has a half-hour Q&Asession every Wednesday from 12pm to 12.30pm. The PrimeMinisterwill be questioned about his policies by the opposition party and will have torespond. Parliamentmembers from the ruling party canalso help the prime minister gain more support by asking favorable questions.
In 2019, SCIE Politics Club held Prime Minister’s Questions for the first time asa House competition.On the afternoon of 6 April 2021, the SCIE Politics Club reconstructedthistraditional parliamentaryactivity.
Tensions rose as Lindsay Hoyle (Rose), sat in front of the stage as the Speakerand MPs from the Prime Minister’s Conservative Party and the opposition Labour Party were already sitting at opposite ends of the ‘Parliament’. Swords once stood between the seats of the ancient English Parliament; Now, instead, there was a quivering silence before the exchange of words.
Whenthe Speaker announced the opening of the questioning session, all eyes turned to the ‘dispatch box’. A Conservative Party MP first asked a question about Britain’s preparedness. At this point, Prime Minister (Max), dressed in a suit and tie, stands up and responds to his fellowMP with a smile on his face. The move is a self-orchestrated attempt by party members to help the prime minister gainthe debate advantage. His gaze wandered over the Labour Party, which would then pose a real challenge.
When the Speaker agrees, opposition leader Keir Starmer (James) rises from his seat. In a calm yet forceful tone, he criticized the prime minister’s government policy on vaccine distribution and launches a series of pertinent questionson lifting lockdown and reopening schools. After a fiery speech, he stared at the prime minister and sat down again. ThePrime Minister took his time, detailing plans for vaccinations and measures to ensure the safety of teachers and students when schools reopened.
What followed was another round of questions from opposition MPs and calm response from the PrimeMinister. Backbencher Edward Miliband (Brian) posed a challenge to the Prime Minister, citing the failure of lockdown in Germany and questioned the Prime Minister how he was to grapple with the opposition clamor to some strict safety policies.
Thirty minutes later, the audience gave a warm applause after Prime Minister had answered his last questionfrom abackbencher played by Gary, whoasked the Prime Minister for a solution to2021 A-Level exams, recalling the cancellation of exams in the UK last year, which directly affected A-Levelstudents’ university application.
Public debate is an integral element of modern Anglo-American political systems. Prime Minister’s Questions and Parliamentary Debates in the United Kingdom and General Election Debates, alongwith Congressional Debates,in the United States play a pivotal role in the smooth operation of British and American democratic systems. Themock of Prime Minister’s Questions showed the characteristics of Western political cultureto Chinese students at SCIE.
To prepare for this activity, the participants needed not only exceptional debate skills, but also to search for abundant information about British politics. Through this event, students not only improved their skills in debating, but also enhanced their knowledge and understanding of British politics, and more importantly, got to learn the responsibility as leaders.