Last night, for the first time in several years, I found myself watching the Beeb’s recently controversial Question Time. And very little seems to have changed over time: Dimbleby Major is still in charge (he’s not a patch on Robin Day), the audience contributions are not unlike panning for gold (you have to sift through a lot of dross), and some of the panel you would not want to get stuck with in the proverbial lift.
The new and improved two-headed donkey put up a real minister for this edition, the culture secretary Jeremy Hunt. I had only previously seen still photos of him, and seeing the bloke in the flesh, he appears disturbingly swivel-eyed. This was a reason, back in the 70s and 80s, for much of the Fourth Estate to dump on politicians like Tony Benn, but as Hunt is a Tory, this aspect of his demeanour will probably pass unnoticed.
The right wing credentials of the panel were further bolstered by Toby Young, who as an associate editor of the Spectator and a food critic, qualifies without question as one of those clever people who talk loudly in restaurants. Unfortunately for the TV audience, he was also allowed to talk loudly on Question Time. Young echoed much of the right leaning press and blogosphere in finding adversely upon Barack Obama’s stance on BP, without pausing to consider what we in the UK might have thought of an oil major overseeing the pollution of hundreds of miles of beaches.
Young and those of similar thought would be more credible if mainstream centre right politicians were making the same noises, but other than Mayor of London Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, who has railed against Obama’s judgement in the course of extracting his “chicken feed” from the Maily Telegraph, nobody else of any note wants to know.
Fortunately for the cause of balance, the panel also included Respect leader Salma Yaqoob, who was not phased by Hunt or Young, or indeed token business person Katie Hopkins, whose ability to drone on in a strangely unattractive monotone did not endear her to the audience. Oh, and Ben Bradshaw, now Hunt’s shadow, was also present, but strangely unmemorable, apart from allowing Dimbleby to trip him up over Labour leadership nominations. As, ultimately, was the programme.
Not really worth Andy Coulson having a stampy tantrum over, was it?