UK Politics

Watch: Past leaders make their PMQs debut

As Theresa May prepares to make her Prime Minister's Questions debut, a look at how previous leaders and opposition leaders fared on their first outing.


David Cameron

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Media captionCameron's first PMQs: 'He was the future once'

Making his debut against Tony Blair in December 2005, David Cameron's famous line was when he said of the prime minister: "He was the future once." Indeed, Mr Cameron went full circle with this, joking at his last ever appearance at Prime Minister's Questions, before handing over to Theresa May, "I was the future once".


Gordon Brown

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Media captionDomestic terrorism was in the spotlight at Gordon Brown's first PMQs

Gordon Brown had waited many years to take his bow at Prime Minister's Questions - and the occasion came on 4 July 2007.

Taking place days after attempted suicide bombings in London and Glasgow, the Commons clash with David Cameron was dominated by security issues.

Mr Brown sought to strike a consensual note by saying all parties should "show unity in the face of terror" but the two leaders clashed over the need for identity cards and the banning of extremist groups.

The prime minister announced a number of security-related initiatives but was jeered by the opposition when, in response to one question, he said he had "only been in the job for five days".


Tony Blair

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Media captionTony Blair used his first PMQs to grill John Major about the single currency

Tony Blair has spoken of the nerves he felt as prime minister ahead of the weekly session but when he was leader of the opposition, he often made it look like plain sailing.

Facing John Major for the first time, on 18 October 1994, he attacked what he said were serious divisions at the top of the government over Europe, particularly over the single currency and whether a referendum would be needed before joining the euro.

A "divided government was a weak government", he told MPs.


Sir John Major

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Media captionJohn Major questioned over the poll tax

John Major faced PM's questions on his second day as prime minister on 29 November 1990, having never done it before.

The session got off to a humorous start, when Labour MP Dennis Skinner shouted "resign" as Mr Major rose to answer his first question. Opposition leader Neil Kinnock then offered the new prime minister his "personal congratulations" on his election as leader.

The future of the poll tax dominated exchanges. Mr Kinnock said it would save a lot of "time and money" to just abolish it. Mr Major steered a middle course, saying a thorough review of the controversial tax was the right action to take.


Jeremy Corbyn

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Media captionJeremy Corbyn was greeted by cheers as he got to his feet for his PMQs debut

Pundits eagerly awaited the new Labour leader's PMQs debut in September 2015 - his first ever outing at the despatch box, having spent the previous decades watching from the backbenches.

In a departure from the usual format for the Commons clash, he opted to ask the prime minister a series of questions sent to him by members of the public - on housing, mental health, public services.

Mr Corbyn said he wanted "less theatre and more facts" at the weekly parliamentary session.


Ed Miliband

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Media captionEd Miliband gives David Cameron '0/2'

Ed Miliband gave David Cameron "nought out of two" in answering his questions as the pair had their first squabble at PMQs about benefits, which came after a quieter first exchange about the death of Linda Norgrove, the aid worker killed in Afghanistan.

He said he wanted to "change the tone" of PMQs exchanges, as he demanded "straight answers to straight questions", in the session in October 2010.

The pair also dug into the archives to remind each other and the House about previous pledges by their opponents.


Michael Howard

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Media captionMichael Howard went on the attack in his first PMQs

The new Tory leader was always regarded as a tough debater but how would he fare in the bearpit of PMQs?

Taking on Tony Blair, on 12 November 2003, he accused the prime minister of running an incompetent and wasteful government and derided the PM's answers, saying at one point: "Two questions asked, neither answered: not a very good start I'm afraid."

Although the atmosphere was electric, the clash was largely nostalgic in flavour.


Iain Duncan Smith

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Media captionAt his first PMQs Iain Duncan Smith pressed Tony Blair about the war in Afghanistan

After his surprise victory in the Tory leadership contest, Iain Duncan Smith's debut outing on 17 October 2001, was eagerly awaited, although it took place in a sombre atmosphere, just weeks after the 9/11 attacks.

He opted to spread his six questions into two segments: the first on Afghanistan, where he backed the UK-supported military action against the Taliban, and the second on Labour's proposed NHS reforms, which was far more heated.

He raised the case of a constituent who had died after spending nine hours on a hospital trolley, and said Labour's "promises of a better tomorrow" would sound "hollow" to their family and many others.

Mr Blair said such failings were "unacceptable" but hit out at the Tories for not supporting their investment in the NHS.


William Hague

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Media captionWilliam Hague entertained the Commons when he made his debut against Tony Blair

A youthful William Hague faced an exceedingly tough task, taking on the leadership of a party which had just been battered at the polls and lost many of its big names.

At his first PMQs - now being held once a week - against Tony Blair on 25 June 1997, he seized on reports that a Labour MP had been threatened with expulsion from the party for campaigning against proposals for a Welsh Assembly.

He said it showed the "arrogant behaviour" of a government which could not tolerate "honest and open" debate. Mr Blair said the claims had been proved to be untrue and urged Mr Hague to withdraw them.

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