I’ve long been a fan of the BBC politics programme, Question Time, and often apply to be on it. But it is deeply flawed in so many ways that just have to be mentioned. The Question Time audience lends themselves to parody, something I’ve written about before, with their stereotypical and unoriginal opinions and comments, parodied very well by Harry and Paul. The panel’s increased need to have someone controversial or reactionary is also well parodied in British comedy, going back to Alan Partridge’s Question Time and Lieutenant colonel Kojak Slaphead III.
Question Time doesn’t even need to be parodied at all to be funny in this aspect. And I don’t pretend that I don’t enjoy watching it. I also don’t oppose the inclusion of people other than politicians and journalists on the panel, provided the extra guest actually wants to make the effort and have opinions and show an interest. This certainly doesn’t seem to be the case with some guests.
It’s called ‘Question’ time. The radio show that it evolved from was called ‘Any Questions.’ So if you’re going to go on the panel, you have a duty to be ready to have something to say on whatever it is you’re asked. And I like it for that. It gets rid of the awkwardness that happens when you want to talk about politics at a party, but you can’t just jump straight into it. There’s nothing I can’t stand more at a social gathering than the bloke who can’t stop putting the bloody world to rights.
But on Question Time, members of the panel are there for that purpose. They’re politicians, journalists, and people with an interest in politics for some other reason related to their career. They engage in such issues of course in newspaper columns and the like. But face to face political discussion is still an annoying thing to jump to. So ‘Question Time’ saves the day. Unlike a column or party political broadcast, the opinions can be discussed. And it’s guaranteed that the audience will want that to be the case. Here the audience is full of people who really want to hear what they have to say. Or they SHOULD.
Instead, it seems that the audience is made up of the blokes/women at parties who can’t stop going on about what the perfect world should look like and how their opinion is the right one. They stick their hands up on the programme and instead of asking a question, they (usually through the medium of inane shouting) tell the panel that they know exactly what should be done and how it’s DISGUSTING that nobody seems to understand this. And, much as I love David Dimbleby and his light-hearted diplomatic approach, he usually responds by asking the audience member a question, when really to save the day he should turn the statement into a question and direct it towards the panel.
Instead of ‘Question Time,’ we have ‘Statement time.’ And honestly it is hilarious to watch. As I say it lends itself easily to parody. But for goodness’ sake it’s supposed to be a serious programme. And it says something to me about the decline in the necessity of proper debate in this post-truth world where angry statements are favoured over genuine enquiries, coupled with the deliberate inclusion of reactionary guests week in week out. But I do hope that one day we have ‘Question’ time again.