7 February 2004 | bob the moo
At a time where politics is spin, this show still manages to make political debate interesting and enjoyable
Each week a panel of politicians, journalist and comment writers is chaired by David Dimbleday as they accept questions from the audience. Each of the three major political parties are represented in order to give each an opportunity for their party and their politics to be represented as the topics of the week are raised and discussed in a lively forum that moves to a different part of the UK each week for broadcast.
In these times of reality television, greatly reduced voter turnouts and general disillusionment with politicians, Question Time stands out as one of my favourite programmes of the week. The public audience allows you to get a feel for the general public view and forces the politicians to face the questions head on. Sure, they will occasionally try to do the thing they do and duck the question, answering it without answering it, but the public audience can always spot that and show them up for what they are. This doesn't have much of an impact of course, but it is always good to see politicians faced with the public's reaction.
I write this having just seen the QT that followed the Hutton enquiry, Geoff Hoon's statement that he knew what the `45 minute' claim actually referred to and that he didn't notice the many, many newspaper headlines that were actually wrong on the subject! The labour MP was forced to face an audience that was sceptical and greeted his statements with derision. Of course, this is sadly only a 60 minute show before the politicians get to hide behind their advisors and media consultants again, but at least it stands up as an arena where politicians have to see that their spin doesn't just wash over us that easy (although it may do in the end!).
Why I enjoy this show is that television has so few political debate shows left. Even the news is more about reports than really pressing political guests over their views. Newsnight has had and will continue to have it's wings clipped after the Hutton verdict but here it is not the BBC putting the questions but the audience - and that makes it easier to do.