By the same authors

From the same journal

“He is just the nowhere man of British politics”: Personal attacks in Prime Minister’s Questions

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle



Publication details

JournalJournal of Language and Social Psychology
DateAccepted/In press - 5 Mar 2018
DateE-pub ahead of print - 16 Apr 2018
DatePublished (current) - 1 Jan 2019
Issue number1
Number of pages24
Pages (from-to)61-84
Early online date16/04/18
Original languageEnglish


Views from the media, the public, and from inside Parliament have expressed discontent with, reportedly, a recent increase in personally antagonistic behaviour in PMQs. Conversely, some are more approving of the mudslinging on display during the weekly showdown between the party leaders. Previous research has highlighted the endorsement of verbal aggression and the increased rowdiness. The focus of this study is a fine-grained analysis of language classified as a personal attack. A model of such personalisation in PMQs was devised and, from this, significant increases across the research period (1979-2016) and individual premierships are reported. Of the five Prime Ministers, David Cameron was the most personally aggressive, though a significant decrease followed Jeremy Corbyn’s appointment as Leader of the Opposition. Proposals for said increases include heightened TV and social media attention coupled with sports-like reporting and party expectation. Suggestions for the functions of personal attacks include highlighting differences, disarming or deconstructing adversaries, and equivocation. Furthermore, four proposals are made for the relative politeness of Cameron vs Corbyn.

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s) 2018. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details

    Research areas

  • disrespect, impoliteness, incivility, insults, personal attacks, personalisation, personalization, PMQs, rudeness

Discover related content

Find related publications, people, projects, datasets and more using interactive charts.

View graph of relations