David Cameron has admitted that he always feels fear and trepidation ahead of his weekly appearance before MPs at Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons.
“I’ve been doing it as Prime Minister for four-and-a-half years, but I was leader of the opposition for more than four years before that, and there isn’t a Wednesday that you don’t feel total fear and trepidation about what is about to happen…” says the PM in a forthcoming BBC documentary about the workings of Parliament.
Adds Mr Cameron: “About five minutes beforehand you think, ‘Oh, have I got to do this again?'”
The regular showpiece – better known as PMQs – is also not exactly welcomed by Ed Miliband, the Labour leader whose job it is to fire questions at his opposite number.
He says in the BBC2 documentary Inside the Commons by veteran political programme maker Michael Cockerell: “Once you’re in it, you forget about the nerves and it’s try and do the best job you can.
“It’s the anticipation I find is worse than the reality. I’ve met no leader of the opposition or Prime Minister that ever says they look forward to PMQs. When I took over this job David Cameron said you’re not going to find yourself looking forward to it. William Hague has said the same to me. Tony Blair has said the same to me.”
Of working in the Commons, Miliband later says: “It’s quite an intimidating place. It feels like a club. I remember I was in my first Parliamentary Labour Party meeting with my brother, and I saw him across the crowded room, and I thought…who would’ve thought it.”
The first part of the four-part documentary also hears from former Home Secretary David Blunkett. The politician, who is blind, says that the crowded voting lobbies which MPs are forced to use are like “the Black Hole of Calcutta”, and calls for MPs to be given a smartcard with which to vote.
Cameron notes that the Parliamentary building “looks half like a museum, half like a church and half like a school”.
Cockerell (below) was given permission to film on the floor of the House, at eye level for the documentary. This means that for the first time, you get to see Cameron face-on at Prime Minister’s Questions, with two or three hundred MPs behind him, baying and cheering.
Former Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy (below) also appears in the first programme, berating his fellow MPs for planting obsequious questions at PMQs.
“I cannot understand why anybody would want to be elected to Parliament…and then be handed a couple of sentences by somebody else and to see this read out,” says Kennedy.
In addition, the programme deals with the difficulties faced by the building which is need of a refurbishment. Its antiquated traditions could also do with an overhaul, according to many who work there.
These include the frock coat uniforms and wigs used by Parliamentary officials and the fact that the MPs cloakroom still contains a pink ribbon attached to each peg which Members of Parliament are meant to use to hang their swords on in a tradition which is now many centuries out of date.
The first part of Inside the Commons airs on BBC2 on Tuesday February 3 at 9pm