Star comment: Punch and Judy politics helps no-one

Sky News has had to cancel its leadership debate after Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss decided to withdraw.

Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss in the second TV debate
Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss in the second TV debate

The release of previously classified documents sheds a fascinating light on Tony Blair’s feeling towards PMQs.

Anyone who has watched the exchanges in the Commons, particularly of late, will have been left in no doubt that this is pantomime politics. On the one hand, it makes for compelling viewing – and a well-placed joke here and there certainly raises a few chuckles. Sir Keir Starmer’s ‘charge of the lightweight brigade’ is a good recent example.

But there is a nagging sense that there isn’t a great deal of substance to the debate – and these records suggest that may well be the case. Most Prime Ministers and Leaders of the Opposition are simply playing to the gallery, trying to score points with their colleagues while also looking for soundbites for broadcasters. The issues themselves seem to be less important than the effect of a well-placed one-liner.

Like it or not, however, PMQs are here to stay and the four remaining candidates vying to replace Boris Johnson must be prepared to enter the fray.

Judging by the exchanges in the televised leadership debates, there will be no shortage of barbed comments whoever ends up in Number 10. Yet the damage that such exchanges can have has been laid bare. Sky News has had to cancel its leadership debate after Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss decided to withdraw, having seemingly done too much damage to one another during their clashes on ITV.

It would be beneficial if the nation were able to move towards a more civil, more consensual approach. The present Punch and Judy iteration of confrontation ill serves its participants or voters. We could do better than this.

The heatwave has well and truly arrived. The temperatures are unprecedented but we are not yet at the stage of the great drought of 76.

Those with longer memories will no doubt recall the disruption this caused – and will be watching today’s weather forecast anxiously. Back then, the earth resembled concrete as farmers were unable to get crops in the ground and Britain sweltered for weeks on end.

The worry is that such high temperatures as we are experiencing now are going to become normal. Climate change is upon us and other nations around the world are experiencing similar extremes. We face more storms and floods in autumn and winter, more heatwaves in spring and summer.

While Britain has signed up to Net Zero by 2050, more must be done in order to stave off conditions far worse than those we are experiencing today.

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