The BBC’s Question Time returned for its latest run last night, and with a new host in Fiona Bruce. Those sceptical of the selection process for David Dimbleby’s successor did not have long to wait to find out how Ms Bruce would handle all those examples of what Robin Day, that first and perhaps greatest Question Time host, rightly and memorably called “here today and gone tomorrow politicians”.
Give you an answer? Er, what's one of those?
Showing that she would be an equal opportunity inquisitor, Ms Bruce had already insisted that Labour’s Emily Thornberry actually answer the question - bit radical, eh? - when the turn came for the inappropriately-named James Cleverly, another superb example of Tory Party lobby fodder, to explain what his Plan B on Brexit would be.
Cleverly wanted to merely sit there and diss Labour. But, as he soon discovered, this was a campaign destined to develop not necessarily to his advantage. “Firstly, I want to pull up Emily [Thornberry]” he declared. Ms Bruce wasn’t having that. “No, we’ve heard lots from Emily, I want to hear … what do you think the Plan B should be?”
Oh SHIT! He was actually going to have to answer a question! This clearly wasn’t in his game plan. But he’d have a go. “I think what should happen is MPs who think that there is some miraculous best choice, some unicorn option that Emily put forward, the idea that Jeremy Corbyn …” No, Fi wasn’t having that, either.
“No, no, we’re not going on about that now. What is your Plan B?” she demanded. Bugger! No way out of answering the question! He had another go. “The idea that they can magic up some alternative plan is not an option”. No, he still wasn’t getting away with deflecting on to Ms Thornberry. Ms Bruce put it directly: “You haven’t got a Plan B”.
Fiona Bruce - definitely up to the job
So once more Cleverly tried to get his propaganda across. “Delaying to have a second referendum is not an option”. No, he still wasn’t getting past Fi. “What’s your plan?” she demanded once more, and then went further. “I just asked you, what is your plan … [you said] I’m going to tell you what our plan is … have I missed it?”
One last go, eh? “Our plan is to deliver the agreement that has been negotiated with 27 …” he began, only to encounter derision from a now impatient audience. Jo Swinson joined in. Did he expect the Government to win next Tuesday’s vote? “I suspect we might not”. Emily Thornberry had by now had enough. “Then what? You’re supposed to be the Government. Then what?” We did not get to find out what.
James Cleverly was asked five times to explain the Tories’ Plan B - what the Government would do in the event that they lose next Tuesday’s vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal. And five times he failed to impart that knowledge. He was more interested in slagging off his political opponents than actually helping to move the Government forward, more keen on blaming others for a mess entirely of the Tories’ own making.
After that, anyone who had doubted Fiona Bruce’s ability to host Question Time beforehand should have doubted no more. Much more of that and there will be a marked reduction in the number of self-promoting nonentities willing to appear on the show merely for the promotion of Themselves Personally Now. Good thing too.
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