The last time I blogged about the BBC’s Question Time programme I suggested it might be a useless blood sport. I’d even giving up watching the programme.
Last night I gave it another chance. I’m glad I did for it was a real humdinger of a show. Plenty of sharp and forthright exchanges.
I reckon it’s taken the programme’s producers a while to understand how to get the balance correct since the formation of the government coalition. I don’t imagine they’ll be always quite as lucky as last night in the mix of opinions.
Anyway, to the analysis. The panel members were Scotland’s Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon; Coalition Employment Minister Ed Davey; Shadow Justice Minister Chris Bryant; hedge fund manager Hugh Hendry; and the historian Simon Schama.
David Dimbleby’s contribution was less in evidence this week. But when it was, it was first-rate, especially in keeping Nicola Sturgeon off the topic of Scottish independence. A notable scalp here when he said, “Don’t just address Scotland”.
The Glasgow audience seemed a fair-minded bunch, which is not always the case in Question Time audiences, making me think that they’re working harder on audience selection.
As to the relative performances of the panel. Simon Schama’s always good value, and was especially perceptive when talking about the EU, saying, ” the culture of complacency prevailing in Brussels is profoundly irritating”.
Denying Nicola Sturgeon the chance to talk about everything from a purely Scottish perspective made contribution ineffective, and a good thing too.
Chris Bryant is the exemplar of all that’s wrong with Labour, no apology for the mess we’re in, and seeming to claim the recovery is down to Labour’s failed policies.
Ed Davey; I’ve not seen much of him since he’s become a government minister. He’s a strong advocate for the coalition’s policies, and a punchy performer.
Hugh Hendry; what a find. The undoubted star of the show. Just after Nicola Sturgeon began to talk about the SNP gaining control of the ‘levers of fiscal power’ of the Scottish economy, he said, “The annoyance I have is that Nicola ain’t gonna employ your kids. I might. She ain’t. These fiscal levers .. this nonsense”.
Nicola Sturgeon interrupts bringing this rejoinder from Hugh Hendry, “I know what I’m talking about Nicola”.
Brilliant stuff. You can watch it again on iPlayer.