Question Time

28 April 2005

Wow. Question Time almost became car-crash TV – the moment Blair was hearing for the first time how GP surgeries work around the 48-hour waiting time targets set by government by forcing people when they could make their appointments, and Dimbleby asked “has anyone else had this problem?” and a chorus of “Yes!” came back; the look of incomprehension on his face was priceless.

Not that he had a much better time during the rest of the programme, although some of the audience flustered their lines somewhat (understandable), there were a lot of pertinent questions about Iraq; Blair shillied and shallied as best he could but didn’t answer many of the questions satisfactorily, banging on about “making tough decisions” again and again. The most awful thing (if I were currently a Labour supporter, rather than a lapsed one), was that when it came to a couple of tap-in questions on the economy and improvements in schools or hospitals – Labour’s allegedly strongest points – he failed, utterly, to get any point across at all. The Labour manifesto is stuffed with statistics – hell, I can remember some of them – dubious or not they sound good as an authoritative answer – but Blair forgot all of them. He had to resort to “well, I think they’re getting better” and personal opinions, without any facts to back them up – not even any anecdotal evidence. The one statistic on the reduction in cancer deaths was woolly and unsure (“er… ten thousand, I think”). With no numbers to back him up, the audience were able to tear him to pieces with their own personal accounts of health service failures in response.

IMO, Question Time was a disaster for Blair, even the friendly questions he managed to answer only passably, rather than positively and triumphantly like an incumbent on his way to a third term should. At the end he was audibly booed by some for chickening out of a proper debate (I suspect that he might regret this – he’d have preferred to spar with known quantities like Howard and Kennedy than a hostile and unpredictable audience). The rivers of sweat on his forehead at the end were reminiscent of Robert Hays in Airplane! Meanwhile, Howard got away fairly lightly, there were some quite angry protests from the audience but not many were coherent enough. Despite not actually saying very much of any merit whatsoever he wriggled through. Charles Kennedy managed to put himself across very well – he was sober, mindful of the facts and considered, even when rattled. He seemed more genuine than the other two, though he still can’t throw off that hint of dullness he has. It’ll be interesting to see the polls tomorrow – I reckon the Lib Dems could score a point or two more, the Tories one as well, with Labour losing out.


5 Responses

Call me shallow, but I was more interested in the progress of his sweating than in what he had to say. To quote Broadcast News, “Even Nixon didn’t sweat this much”, and look what happened to him.

His standard response to the usual “you lied, you bastard” attack seems to be “I took the decision I did in good faith”. Is it just me or is he not actually denying lying anymore? Maybe he’s saying that he lied, but in good faith …

Iain

The big thing for me was how instantly the atmosphere in the room changed as soon as Howard stepped up. Kennedy may well have got some tough questions (notably the local income tax issues in the South-East), but the room just seemed to drop about 5 degrees before anyone even asked Howard a question.

The guy really got a complete skewering over his Iraq position, which is just amazingly twisted. As far as I can understand it, he would have gone to war as well, the Conservatives only had 3 rebels to Labour’s 85 in the vote on the declaration of war, he supports Regime Change although he agrees that if they hadn’t had the WMD excuse it would have been illegal, and yet Tony Blair is a Nasty Bad Man for what he’s done. We had to go to war for Saddam’s flouting of UN resolutions, even if the UN didn’t want us to.

Have I missed something? Or is it just the fact that Howard now seems to be auditioning for a role narrating the Talking Book version of the Daily Mail.

James

I think we should all thank Michael Howard for clearing up any confusion over Iraq. Pre-emptive and possible illegal invasion isn?t pre-emptive and possibly illegal invasion, it?s ?Regime Change ? Plus?. Inspired! Like Colgate Extra or an Escort ?Ghia?. See how it all makes sense? I?ll be voting Tory in the hope that ?Regime Change ? Plus? makes it into international law once they scrap the Geneva Convention. Maybe we could also have ?Murder ?Plus? for really gruesome killers, or ?Muslim ? Plus? for terror suspects. It could work in politics too: ?Tory?Plus? for UKIP; ?UKIP ? Plus? for the BNP?

Iain

That reminds me. He claimed that he tried to get the Geneva Convention “updated” back when he was Home Sec.

Surely such debate at the UN (if it ever actually took place) would have been the Foreign Sec’s job?

Who needs to revoke it anyway; if they really want to break the Geneva Convention, they just need to define the people in a way that they aren’t covered by it, like Rummy did…

James

Indeed – something like “citizens … minus” perhaps..