David Cameron 'Ruder' Than Gordon Brown To MPs During Prime Minister's Questions

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DAVID CAMERON GORDON BROWN
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David Cameron has been less polite than Gordon Brown when responding to backbench MPs at Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs), new university research claims.

The "Punch and Judy" politics Conservative PM Mr Cameron once vowed to end, forms a major part of PMQs although politeness does exist within the House of Commons, the University of Manchester-published report adds.

In (Im)politeness during Prime Minister's Questions, linguist James Murphy analysed three PMQs sessions from Mr Cameron's premiership and three from Mr Brown's as Labour PM.

The PhD researcher's approach included watching videos of six randomly chosen sessions and examining how phrases were uttered, such as whether an aggressive or condescending tone of voice was used.

A politeness theory was also used to assess how the MPs asked the questions and how the PMs responded during the weekly 30-minute sessions.

Mr Murphy said: "At PMQs, both Brown and Cameron are, unsurprisingly, unfailingly polite when answering their own MPs. To do otherwise may indicate a rift within the party.

"In response to questions which are worded in a neutral way, Brown answers consistently politely.

"Cameron, in contrast, answers impolitely on around a half of occasions. This suggests a mismatch between Brown's linguistic performance at PMQs and the public's perception of him."

The figures show of 14 questions asked neither politely nor impolitely to Mr Cameron, he replied in a similar way on three occasions and used an "impoliteness strategy" on two.

Mr Brown was asked nine questions neither politely nor impolitely and responded to all in a manner said to be polite by the study.

Mr Murphy, based in the university's School of Arts, Languages and Cultures, wrote: "Cameron... mirrors the behaviour of the questioner on three occasions, as well as responding impolitely twice.

"Those two instances are in response to the LO [Leader of the Opposition], which may indicate that the LO's position means that even if he asks questions in a less threatening way, the PM still views them as more serious and resultantly comes out 'all guns blazing', as it were."

On 35 questions asked to Mr Cameron judged to be impolite, the PM answered using an impoliteness strategy 22 times or 62.86% of the time.

Mr Brown received 38 questions asked in an impolite manner and responded in an impolite way on 26 occasions, or 68.42%.

Researcher Mr Murphy says one of the reasons PMQs is viewed as highly confrontational is because the exchanges between the Leader of the Opposition and PM receive the most attention.

The paper says the PM, on the whole, will only use impolite behaviour in response to impolite questions.

Mr Murphy adds his investigation has had "limited scope" but concludes: "I believe that this study has... shown that, although Punch & Judy politics forms a major part of PMQs, politeness still has its place in the House of Commons."