Page last updated at 15:32 GMT, Thursday, 1 March 2012

Is it on for noises off at PMQs?

Prime Minister's Questions

By Allegra Stratton
Political editor, BBC Newsnight

There are some noises off going off in the Tory parliamentary party - about noise.

At last week's Tory away day - more an in-day than an away day since it was held inside Westminster at Portcullis House - the prime minister's parliamentary private secretary Desmond Swayne told MPs that they needed to get more rowdy at PMQs... so that the PM could have greater audible wall of loyalty propping him up.

Ehem. Last year David Cameron told Grazia magazine that he loathed the "testosterone-charged event" and "gladiatorial atmosphere of PMQs". Does Cameron know his PPS is fastening the fighter's sandals and ordering in extra-absorbent sand?

This is Cameron in November on the trial he finds PMQs: "It is the most unpleasant-looking thing that I have to do every week." "It is confrontational, adversarial and quite difficult to be anything else unless you want to get completely squashed by the other side."

Dr Sarah Wollaston, Conservative MP for Totnes, may have had an inkling of this when, at the "in-day" last Friday, she stood up and took issue with Swayne.

Wollaston said she didn't think it was a good idea - those assembled had just been given a presentation on the Tory party's problems with regional voters and that the Conservatives appeared too southern. Didn't Swayne think that even more Hooray Henrying would set them even further back, she asked.

Sources said that their exchange ended with one of them saying "well we must agree to disagree".

Cameron has clearly given up on taming PMQs... It's implicit in his quote to Grazia.

Even MPs critical of Swayne's demand acknowledged that there are weird parts of the Commons chamber where the audio drops and you can suddenly feel quite isolated.

But there is a deeper disquiet. It remains the fear that David Cameron has successfully modernised himself, but not his party. And at last Friday's meeting there were signs it could be moving in the wrong direction.

He may be a spoof, but spoof or not, the issue seems to have passed Twitter's Steve Hilton Guru by, on Wednesday he tweeted: "Dave is on fire. Women in the gallery looking conspicuously aroused."




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