Questions to the Prime Minister: A Comparative Study of PMQs from Thatcher to Cameron

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Colleges, School and Institutes


This article provides a comparative analysis of the opening sessions of Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) for the last five Prime Ministers in order to test a general perception that PMQs has become increasingly a focal point for shallow political point scoring rather than serious prime ministerial scrutiny. Our data appear to confirm that PMQs has become both rowdier and increasingly dominated by the main party leaders. It also indicates that Prime Ministers are increasingly expected to be able to respond to a wider range of questions, female MPs are as likely to ask helpful questions but less likely to ask unanswerable questions than male counterparts, and MPs are less likely to ask helpful questions and more likely to ask unanswerable questions the longer their parliamentary tenure. More surprisingly perhaps, our findings also suggest that, at the beginning of their premierships at least, Thatcher and Brown appear the most accomplished in terms of the fullness of their answers, and Blair and Cameron the least accomplished.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-28
JournalParliamentary Affairs
Early online date6 Aug 2012
Publication statusPublished - 2012