Page last updated at 14:59 GMT, Thursday, 15 May 2008 15:59 UK

McCain wants US version of PMQs

Republican presidential nominee John McCain
John McCain says he admires the British political system

John McCain has said he would introduce an American version of prime minister's questions if elected US president.

The Republican candidate will pledge later to submit himself to regular grillings by both houses of Congress.

He said exchanges such as those in the British House of Commons were a way of holding leaders accountable.

The weekly half hour PMQ sessions in the Commons are often rowdy affairs with party leaders trading insults spurred on by baying MPs.

But they allow the main opposition party leaders to put the prime minister on the spot on a subject of their choice and backbench MPs to raise issues on behalf of constituents.

There is no equivalent in the US - formal speeches such as the State of the Union address do not include question and answer sessions.

Mr McCain - who likes to portray himself as plain speaking and open to scrutiny - says he will change that if he makes it to the White House in November.

'Punch and Judy'

In a speech in Columbus Ohio, he will say: "I will ask Congress to grant me the privilege of coming before both houses to take questions, and address criticism, much the same as the prime minister of Great Britain appears regularly before the House of Commons."

He will add: "When we make errors, I will confess them readily, and explain what we intend to do to correct them."

He also reiterated a pledge to hold weekly news conferences, a change from President George W Bush's practice of holding them roughly once a month.

Prime minister's questions has often been criticised for showing Parliament in a bad light - with pictures of rowdy MPs invariably leading that day's TV news bulletins.

But attempts over the years to make the sessions less confrontational have largely ended in failure.

Conservative leader David Cameron recently admitted he had failed to live up to his pledge to end the "Punch and Judy" aspect of the sessions.

Asked during Wednesday's PMQs whether the "weekly knockabout" was a good way to discuss policy, Prime Minister Gordon Brown replied: "Yes."


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