UK Politics

Ed Miliband calls for public Prime Minister's Questions

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Media captionEd Miliband says he wants to "let the public into our politics".

The public should have their own version of Prime Minister's Questions, Labour leader Ed Miliband has said.

He told the BBC he was preparing a formal proposal calling for voters to be allowed to question the prime minister in the Palace of Westminster. MPs currently do so on Wednesdays.

Mr Miliband said it would bridge the "mile-wide" gulf between what people want and what they get from PMQs.

A spokesperson for the Commons' Speaker said the suggestion would be looked at.

'No' gimmick

Mr Miliband told the Andrew Marr Show he wanted to "let the public in to our politics" and promised he would not try to pack a potential audience with his own supporters.

"I think what we need is a public question time where regularly the prime minister submits himself or herself to questioning from members of the public in the Palace of Westminster on Wednesdays," he said.

"At the moment there are a few inches of glass that separates the public in the gallery from the House of Commons but there is a gulf a mile wide between the kind of politics people want and what Prime Minister's Questions offers."

Asked if the idea was a gimmick, Mr Miliband said: "No, it's serious."

Labour said the proposed "Public Question Time" would be held once a fortnight and possibly weekly in Parliament, if permitted by the Speaker.

Those asking questions "would be chosen by a method to ensure a wide representation of the country and political backgrounds".

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Media captionEd Miliband: "It is true that there are elements of the press who really don't like me"

A spokesperson for House of Commons Speaker John Bercow said the Speaker would "look at Mr Miliband's suggestions with interest, when he receives them".

"Clearly, any changes would be a matter for the House," the spokesperson said.

'Photo opportunity'

During the interview, Mr Miliband also said he wanted to "find ways to change our political culture".

"It's not just about putting the photo opportunity first," he stressed.

He said he was aiming at "a different type of leadership that has listening as part of leading".


By Adam Fleming, political correspondent

Nick Clegg does it on the radio. David Cameron prefers it in a factory. And Ed Miliband will do it wherever. Politicians quite enjoy being grilled by ordinary voters. Yes, there's a risk they might get egged or - worse - pelted with an embarrassing question, but it makes them look human and cuts out the cynical media man - ie me.

The Labour leader's proposal of a Prime Minister's Questions for the public in parliament - PPMQs anyone? - is pretty revolutionary. But I think the idea of punters on the green benches is too much for the hidebound world of Westminster. More likely is a Q&A in a committee room or in Westminster Hall, the lesser-known sister chamber of the Commons.

And who would get to do the asking? How would you get a seat? How would you ensure the audience was balanced and not packed with cronies? Mr Miliband's idea raises a lot of, well, questions.

Asked about his effort in a speech two days ago to confront a perceived image problem, Mr Miliband said: "I wanted to say to the public I'm not just going to compete on the terms you're used to.

"I'm competing on terms that are different and I actually think are more important to you and to your life."

He said Labour would put forward policies on issues such as rent and housing, the minimum wage and abuse of zero-hours contracts at the next election.

"I happen to think that's more important than if I look good eating a bacon sandwich," he said.

Obama meeting

Mr Miliband defended a recent short meeting with US President Barack Obama at the White House, which critics dismissed as a photo opportunity.

He said they had discussed important issues such as climate change and inequality.

"If we think about those questions, the solutions go through the United States.

"As someone who wants to be the prime minister... I think that to engage with the United States is a totally sensible thing."

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