Jeremy Corbyn set out to change the tone of the usually adversarial and heated Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs) time when the new Labour leader faced off with David Cameron in the House of Commons on 16 September. The bespectacled left-winger claimed voters across the country said they wanted the historic convention to be reformed.
"Many [people] told me that they thought PMQs was too theatrical, that parliament was out of touch and they wanted things to be done differently, but above all they wanted their voice heard in parliament. So I thought in my first PMQs I would do it in a slightly different way," Corbyn said.
The Labour leader said he had received 40,000 replies when he reached out to supporters and asked them what he should quiz Cameron on during the weekly session. The Islington North MP first questioned the Conservative leader over the government's housing policies, citing an email from a voter called "Marie". The prime minister said he welcomed the new approach and took five more questions from the likes of "Gail", "Claire" and "Stephen".
Cameron's best line
Corbyn was able to gain a concession out of Cameron when he pushed the prime minister on the government's mental health services record. The Labour leader cited an email from a concerned voter, who claimed the services were "on their knees".
The top Tory accepted that more needed to be done in the area and public attitudes must change. But the exchange also provided Cameron with his strongest line – "you can't have a strong NHS without a strong economy".
The response was reminiscent of the prime minister's effective attacks on Labour in the run-up to the general election. By linking major policies back to the economy, where the Tories enjoy more support from the public, Cameron was able to take the sting out of Labour's attacks – a feat he will hope to repeat with Corbyn at the top of Labour.
Much has been made of Corbyn's image since he became the frontrunner in the Labour leadership election, and the fashion analysis has not stopped since he gained power. The left-winger would probably much rather concentrate on policy, but the age of TV politics means it does matter what he looks like – for better or worse. The 66-year-old was smart at the dispatch box with his grey suit and yellow patterned tie. Meanwhile, Cameron was business-like in his navy blue jacket and tie combination, which was broken up by his white shirt.
Corbyn's debut was solid – nothing spectacular and nothing disastrous. The Labour leader certainly achieved his goal of cooling the atmosphere in the chamber and he was able to get his points across in a succinct and logical manner. Cameron reciprocated Corbyn's respectful tone and the debate took a productive turn.
However, the new approach did not hold up when the SNP leader in the Commons, Angus Robertson, questioned the prime minister. It turned fiery as the politicians clashed over the issue of Scottish devolution. Robertson even went as far as accusing Cameron of "condescension" after the prime minister claimed to have delivered on all of his promises relating to Holyrood. All in all, it will take time for MPs, the media, and public to adjust to Corbyn's new approach to PMQs.