PMQs: what will happen as Jeremy Corbyn makes debut?

Prime Minister's Questions heads in a new direction with Jeremy Corbyn as opposition leader

Jeremy Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn on course to win the leadership race according to 'surprise' poll
(Image credit: Getty)

Today's Prime Minister's Questions is promising to be an exciting spectacle, with Labour's surprise new leader Jeremy Corbyn going head-to-head with David Cameron for the first time.

The left-wing veteran, who has spent 32 years on the backbenches, has made it clear that PMQs will be quite different with him as leader of the opposition.

In fact, he might not even be the one throwing questions at the PM. Corbyn has suggested that he will rotate with members of his front bench on Wednesday afternoons, telling the Huffington Post: "It won't all be me everywhere all the time."

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Nevertheless, he will be at the dispatch box this week and has even been crowd-sourcing questions for Cameron from Labour members. In the email appeal sent out to thousands of supporters, Corbyn hinted at the line he would take, giving examples such as "Why do a million people use food banks?" and "Why are so many people homeless?"

It is not yet clear whether the "exercise in open-source democracy" will be a permanent arrangement or a one-off experiment, says The Independent, but he has apparently received 33,000 submissions, ranging from serious questions about Trident, Syria and the TTIP deal to "Why is your forehead so shiny?"

But the Daily Telegraph says senior Tories really have "no idea" what Cameron will face this week at PMQs, "making it almost impossible to prepare".

According to the Economic Voice, the big question is: will Corbyn wear a tie? Bookmakers Betway has apparently taken advantage of the national obsession with Corbyn's wardrobe – offering odds on his neckwear at today's PMQs. Punters can also bet on the topic of Corbyn's first question. The refugee crisis, banks, poverty, privilege and the right to strike are among the favourites, but Betway is also offering some cheekier (and much longer) odds on whether he will ask Cameron for fashion tips or directions to the front bench.

Corbyn has been clear on the long-term changes he hopes to make to the session. "I want Prime Minister's Question Time to be less theatre, more fact, less theatrical, more understandable. I think it's very exciting for political obsessives, it's utterly boring for most of the population, who think it's an utter irrelevance," he said.

The Labour leader has also ruled out making personal attacks, suggesting there might be less "kitchen sink" banter in the Commons over the next few years. "I don't do personal. I don't give it. I don't take it. I'm just not interested," he told the Huffington Post.

Writing for the Huffington Post, Jasdev Singh Rai thinks Corbyn is likely to "reign in Cameron's playground style" and show off his ability to handle the most difficult situations.

"The debate will be on his terms rather than on Cameron's bullyboy terms," he predicts. "If he manages to turn around this decades-old style, he will dominate politics."

Labour's new deputy leader Tom Watson made a similar point on BBC1's Andrew Marr Show. He said Corbyn wanted to end "the bullyboy scoring points at prime minister's questions", describing it as a "very bad showcase for democracy".

Some Conservatives are already digging their claws in, with the Tory MP for Havant, Alan Mak, telling his local newspaper that he expects Corbyn to be "out of his depth at PMQs".

Corbyn will be the fifth Labour leader to face Cameron since he became Conservative leader ten years ago, but the PM may choose to tread carefully with some allies reportedly warning that mockery might only serve to intensify Corbyn's grassroots support.

Tory MP Caroline Dinenage is among many predicting that – whatever happens – this Wednesday's PMQs will be the "hottest ticket in town".

  • Live coverage of Prime Minister's Questions can be watched on 16 September at midday on BBC Parliament

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