Prime Minister's questions as political ritual
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This article contends that Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs) are a political ritual that supports a gender regime in the House of Commons. After a brief description of PMQs their context and nature are discussed from the standpoints of participants and observers. Then new evidence of the attitudes of MPs and the public is presented in which differences between women and men are analysed and discussed. These findings challenge the notion that PMQs are off-putting to the public, especially women, but show that many MPs are ambivalent, women more than men. The conclusions discuss these unexpected findings and assess their significance to the political representation of women and the nature of parliamentary politics.
KeywordsPrime Minister's questions women gender parliament political ritual gender regime
This article was prepared with the support of the Gendered Ceremony and Ritual Programme (GCRP), financed by the Leverhulme Foundation. It draws on interviews conducted for the programme by Faith Armitage and Rosa Malley in the course of their research. Both kindly included questions about PMQs in their interviews at the request of the author. It also makes use of earlier interviews conducted by Sarah Childs with the New Labour women MPs who were first elected to the House of Commons in 1997 and kindly supplied to the author. Each interview is therefore ascribed to the interviewer by their initials. The article also includes evidence from specially commissioned Survey Questions from YouGov and ComRes. Phillip Cowley helped with the You Gov Question design. Laurence Janta-Lipinski at YouGov and Katherine Peacock at ComRes made helpful suggestions about survey design and question wording. I am also grateful to Faith Armitage, Rosie Campbell, Sarah Childs, Alan Finlayson, Rosa Malley, Deborah Mabbett, Shirin Rai, Alan Ware and the participants in the GCRP programme and the Birkbeck Gender and British Politics Seminar series for their helpful feedback on earlier versions of this article.
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