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Question Time verdict


At some point around the early evening BBC1 6 O’ Clock News yesterday, the viewing public was presented with a between-programmes trailer about Car Share, the new Peter Kaye sit-com, whose opening episode I had earlier chosen to watch on ‘play-back’ (shortly after breakfast) having seen two or three positive reviews upon it in the newspapers.

The gist of the trailer was that the second episode was going to be aired last night at 9.30pm.

That announcement decided my viewing evening. Inertia, after the national and local news, meant that I then also had to sit through The One Show and then Eastenders, which to me (as a non-regular) has become bitty and far too depressing – its story-lines almost surreal.

A bit like the UK’s ongoing General Election campaign, I hear my readers think.

Which brings me to the other programme standing between me and Peter Kaye’s Car Share – the Question Time Election Special, hosted by David Dimbleby on BBC1, set in what looked like a cavernous lecture hall in Leeds.

The three party leaders [that is, the Tory, Labour and Lib-Dem leaders – and I still don’t quite understand how it is that the Lib-Dems’ leader gain the right under our electoral system to have apparent parity in such things with the two main parties, well save that they by self-imposed tradition his or she is granted this privilege via the cosy Westminster insiders’ old boys network] each had thirty minutes – well, twenty-eight, actually – being grilled by those in the audience, which (Dimbleby told us) had been carefully picked to consist of 25% Tory, Labour and Lib-Dem supporters and the last 25% floating or undecided voters.

We weren’t told how they decided the order in which they appeared – Cameron, then Miliband, then Clegg – so it could have been by the toss of a coin, some insiders’ stitch-up or drawing lots. Who knows, or even cares?

debateGoing first, the Prime Minister had the immediate issue of how to use the props – a small, tall, table on which there was a glass and a pitcher of water (well, I assume it wasn’t gin) and a tall stool beside it on a raised circular stage.

He momentarily placed one cheek of his behind on the stool … but as the first question came winging in, possibly having been told to do this by his spin-doctors and marketing men, he immediately stood up and strode to the front of the stage, from where he gave his entire performance.

I thought he did well. He came over to this viewer as ‘better’ for having adopted his new his new ‘passionate’ mode in public. Cameron’s eternal trouble – skewered by the political cartoonists just as Ed Miliband is skewered by his Wallace & Gromit manifestation – is that he comes across as an archetypal Tory Posh Boy with bright red, but oh-so-smooth-and-Botox-shiny cheeks.

His minus points came from two or three instances where he totally failed to answer the direct question – something which always gets my goat (and I think that of other voters too).

In my view, Miliband also gained a pass mark. He completely ignored the stool and at times came off the stage almost into the audience. He was cool under fire – and there was a lot of it from the (presumably Tory-voting) business community in the audience on Labour’s 13 years in power – and seemingly tried to take on the points raised that he didn’t agree with. He also seemed to make the headlines – at least he did for me – when he appeared to state for the record that he’d rather not be Prime Minister of a Labour Government at all post-7th May than accept having to do so on the basis of relying (in any sense at all) on the SNP.

Clegg, who for me epitomises ‘Westminster Man’ and is therefore a hate figure – he really does come across (despite all his ‘hail fellow well met’ persona and patter) like a snake-oil salesman who at any time could argue any side of any political argument with equal cod-conviction … if it suited him.

Having said that, almost against expectations, he also did pretty well.

Overall, there were no glaring howlers, dropped catches or cock-ups … well, if you disregard Ed Miliband’s slapstick –style slip as he tried to step off the stage.


After the programme was over – besides my concerns as to whether they’d all taken sips of water out of the same glass provided, as seemed to be the case – I was left with one overriding impression as regards the two main parties, the Tories and Labour.

As put across last night by Messrs Cameron and Miliband, what was noticeable was how these two plainly-intelligent and opinionated gentlemen had managed to come to two such completely different views of what the United Kingdom stands for, what its society is and how it runs, and what is necessary to take the country forward in a manner that creates the greatest benefit for the greatest number of its population.

Pardon me for coming from a wholly inferior strata of intelligence-quotient, but you’d think that, when the greatest/keenest mind of any generation address the great intellectual/political issues of their time, they’d be more likely to agree on not only cause and effect but the solutions to our problems.

What was striking last night was that they plainly don’t. Cameron and Miliband argued their cases to win the election for their parties outright – and then become Prime Minister – almost equally well but were presenting two very different views of the world.

They cannot both be right, even if either of them are.

[Simon Campion-Brown is still unwell].

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About Lavinia Thompson

A university lecturer for many years, both at home and abroad, Lavinia Thompson retired in 2008 and has since taken up freelance journalism. She is currently studying for a distant learning degree in geo-political science and lives in Norwich with her partner. More Posts