Friday, February 03, 2006


Questionable Time

Perhaps oddly for a political animal, I don't usually watch Question Time. My other half does, but I find that I'm either too sleepy to start watching it or that, when I do, I shout too much at the screen.

As there's a Liberal Democrat leadership contest on at the moment and I remain undecided between the three candidates, I've broken my habit recently and started watching it again to see if Chris, Ming or Simon's performances enthuse me into a commitment. As it happens, I thought Chris Huhne was fairly impressive last night - best on the first question, not giving an inch on freedom of speech, and sound if repetitive on Iraq - but it was two of the other guests who caught my attention. Not Cheryl Gillan, who came across as quite sane and reasonable for a Tory (and far better than the gloating nastiness of John Redwood last week), nor the strangely forgettable Plaid Cymru AM, but Adam Rickitt and Rhodri Morgan.

Rhodri provided the star turn of the night, though not in a good way. I used to think he was quite independent-minded for a Labour person – well, anyone who the Blair machine has attempted to destroy gains a certain amount of kudos, deserved or not – but I've never seen anyone self-destruct so badly live on TV before. Does he no longer have a brain of his own?

Pressed constantly on the perfectly reasonable question of whether it was right to go to war against Iraq, he spent answer after answer talking about seemingly anything else that came into his mind (visiting squaddies, the Boer War, the Nazis – four times in his first two answers, which seemed to be aiming for some kind of Godwin’s Law jackpot) while winding up the audience and digging himself deeper with every evasion. According to him, because he’s no longer an MP he doesn’t need to have an opinion on it. In fact, he shouldn’t have an opinion, and he told the audience that neither should they. I suspect most of the audience started off on his side; it takes some doing to have them all either laughing at him or baying for his blood.

It's incredible that he expects anyone to believe he never once thought to make up his mind about Iraq, and offensive that he told all the rest of us we were wrong to have our own opinions and should leave it our lords and masters in Westminster as the only people allowed to have a view. And then to attack the audience for disagreeing! He was shameful. If I were anyone in Plaid Cymru, I’d be on the phone to BBC Worldwide to license that ten minutes of flakiness and send a DVD of it to every target voter.

Adam was a different problem altogether. He wasn't the worst panellist they've ever had on, and wasn't the airhead that his reputation suggests, though his habit of saying one thing, being taken to task for it by a wiser panellist (usually Chris) and then agreeing with the other panellist as if that's what he'd meant to say all along ("Exactly!") did make him seem a bit all over the shop. And I have next to zero dress sense, but as he was looking thinner and more unhealthy than I've ever seen him, even I could suggest that wearing a large suit he looked lost inside (as if he might 'grow into it') was a mistake.

However, my problem with him wasn't how he looked or even what he said. It was that he was introduced as an 'actor', and that was how he was billed every time his name flashed across the screen. No, bear with me, I'm not casting aspersions on his acting ability. It's just that the reason he was on the programme wasn't because he used to be on Corrie; it's because he is seeking to become a Conservative MP. Last week, another young man appeared as the fifth panellist, billed as a magazine editor. At no point was it mentioned that he's chairing a Conservative policy group (though strangely enough, Ms Gillan mentioned him last night). Call me old-fashioned, but if someone's on the programme as a 'new Tory', shouldn't we be told?

I'm disturbed that it's the second week in a row that QT has had a second Tory by stealth. Isn't it lying to the audience to not tell us all where such 'independents' are coming from?

This Adam Rickett?


I'd got the impression that the intended panellist was sick, and by a mix-up their 13 year old babysitter was sent along instead. His opinions were, you know, profound enough, you know.
That Adam Rickett, indeed. And I breathe a sigh of relief that your link was one of those rare ones where his clothes were on.

I think Questionable Time should have younger panellists on more often - even younger than the splendid Jo Swinson, who had to put up with one of the most odiously boorish panellists on record - but I'm forced to admit that Mr Rickett wasn't a shining example of youthful passion or plain-speaking. And he did look quite unwell. Still, at least he didn't preen quite so much as Mr Goldsmith did the previous week...
I've a nasty feeling that Mr Dimbleby is a Tory - so no surprises for the extra Tories by stealth. Impartial? No.
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