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Friday, 12 December 2014

BBC Question Time Last Night : Brand vs Farage vs the Audience

Last night's BBC Question Time from Canterbury was certainly very entertaining. However it was also the kind of deliberately contrived sensationalist slanging match that demeans the issues being discussed and probably puts lots of people off politics. Which puts me in a bit of a moral dilemma since I did enjoy it, while at the same time thinking to myself whether or not I should switch it off.
Clearly the producers has decided that this was the big one; a chance to up the ratings and draw in viewers who'd normally rather drink a cup of cold bleach than watch a political discussion programme. Russell Brand vs Nigel Farage, the clash of the panto clown and the panto villain with the baying mob providing the extra fun. The rest of the panel were a collection of very sensible female politicians and columnists who wisely resisted joining in the insult trading and made some very good points from their various perspectives, all of which however were buried beneath the fun and games. Once again the Green Party was not represented on the panel, although neither were the Lib Dems.
The first question was all about whether adversarial politics puts people off. Oh the irony, given that the show was deliberately designed to be a slanging match. Hence the second question about immigration, a topic almost guaranteed to produce an emotional response from both sides. Off went Nigel Farage with his over-the-top claims about immigrants causing motorway traffic jams and in came the personal insults from Russell Brand and the best quote of the show when he described Mr Farage as, "a pound shop Enoch Powell". It was funny but does this kind of thing really achieve anything in terms of challenging UKIP's arguments... of course not. But then the show was about entertainment rather than serious discussion.
Russell Brand's worst moment came when an angry man in the audience, who looked like he could handle himself in a punch up, suggested that Brand should stand for election himself if he was serious. A very good point and all Brand could manage in response was a feeble: "I'd be scared that I'd end up like the others". It didn't work and Brand looked wrongfooted. As the audience started shouting at each other David Dimbleby sat back and let events take their natural course, presumably on the advice of the gleeful producers. Then came the woman with the blue hair, reputedly a Socialist Workers Party activist, who stood up and fired her invective at Farage, "You're a scumbag racist...." she screamed and stole the show. Acceptable political discourse it certainly wasnt.
The problem with all of this is that it reduces serious and complex issues to who can shout the loudest and who has the best one-line put down. Both sides in these debates tend to be equally ill informed. Having said that there were sensible points being made in the programme by both the people on the panel and the more restrained members of the audience. Its a shame that these sensible points, on both sides of the debate, were completely lost amid the pantomime.

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