The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

The Question Time Quandary

Posted by The Futility Monster on January 16, 2010 @ 11:51

Dimbleby needs to be careful he doesn't turn into the modern-day McCarthy...

No, not Prime Minister’s Questions, which is 30 minutes of botched soundbites with the occasional mild joke that always brings the House down in tears of exaggerated laughter, but the BBC’s “flagship” vox pop opinion programme, Question Time.

I finally got round to watching Thursday’s episode last night thanks to the wonders of on-demand television. It was probably one of the most interesting episodes I’ve seen for a long time, largely because of the entertaining 20 minute start in which both the panel and audience let loose a continuous anger about the Iraq War.

You can include in that the reaction of Peter Hain. Yes, he dithered and defended his decision to back the conflict, but it was clear for all to see that he was sticking firmly to his guns, that in his mind it was a war about WMDs, and he ever so slightly implied that he may not have supported it if the WMD argument were not present. He looked uncomfortable, and even praised Lib Dem Chris Huhne for his “correct judgement” (maybe paraphrased).

The reaction to this episode from planks like John Rentoul was fast and withering, calling it a “witch-hunt” and bemoaning its quality of fact-checking. True, the fact that even Ken Clarke thought the government only scraped through its war declaration with a majority of 11 was somewhat embarrassing, and perhaps a sign that things aren’t all there any more in Ken Clarke’s head… and I did get the distinct feeling that the audience was filled with A-Level politics students… but to me it was fully reflective of how the British public will never forget Iraq in a hurry.

Criticism rained down all night, from the left and from the right. And even the very right. Thanks Kelvin. It was another tirade against government, against Labour, against politicians, against almost everything we have gone through in the past decade as the world has changed.

I’m still young and hopelessly naive, so maybe I’m not best placed to say the behaviour of the British electorate over the past year is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. But it still feels bad. Week after week, the relentless feeling that the old politics is dying just cannot be escaped. The political classes are utterly despised. The record of this Labour government over the last seven years, even since the disaster of Iraq, is a festering wound at the heart of democracy. Did people genuinely think their votes in 2001 were going to lead to this?

Maybe people don’t want representative democracy any more because – in this era where deference is only paid to celebrities and the talented – we don’t believe our representatives are fully qualified to represent us. We’ve had enough of Burke’s trustee model. And we might have even had enough of democracy full stop.

The Tories have to be careful how they ride this wave of cynicism into power. If they misjudge it, they’ll only end up getting bitten themselves.

Meanwhile, Question Time will rumble on. I can’t help but wonder, though, if maybe we’re slowly becoming a victim of too much opining…

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