Liveblogging Question Time

by Stephen Tall on September 28, 2006

Okay, so I’ve not tried it before (and I may never again) but check back here at 10:40 pm, and I’ll be commenting on BBC1’s Question Time as it happens. Think of it as a bit like the Grauniad’s Over-By-Over cricket commentary… but without the cricket. Or the jokes.

According to the online Radio Times (pronounced: Raddy-Ot-Immys) the panel includes:

Jack Straw MP, Leader of the House of Commons; Ken Clarke QC MP, Former Home Secretary; Baroness Tonge, Liberal Democrat; Piers Morgan, broadcaster and writer; and Jane Horrocks, actress.

But, according to Iain Dale, Jane Horrocks has been replaced by Lance Price, Alastair Campbell’s former deputy.

It’s an oddly unbalanced panel for QT, given that Messrs Straw, Morgan and Price have all, at one stage or another, been vocal advocates for the Labour Party. Like most Lib Dems, I shall await Jenny Tonge’s pronouncements with trepidation. I get a mite nervous when it seems likely I’m going to spend more time agreeing with the Tory on QT than my own party’s representative.

10.37 pm – the panel is introduced. Piers Morgan is apparently now “a writer and broadcaster”. Former News of the Screws showbiz writer turned failed, sacked Mirror editor might be a discourteous introduction, I guess.

Ken Clarke tips John Reid for the Labour leadership. My telly’s widescreen: Ken looks scarily stretched. (Though not as scary as the first time I saw Vanessa Feltz in widescreen.)

10:41 pm – Piers Morgan praises Gordon Brown as the most serious candidate. He’s probably got a fake photo somewhere which proves it. Lance Price suggests it might have been Tony Blair (and not Alastair Campbell) who referred to Gordon Brown as ‘psycholigically flawed’.

10:44 pm – ALERT ** audience member plant ** ALERT Reels off string of stats to prove how dire the economy is. Jack Straw doing his “I’m a reasonable kinda guy” schtick. Quite quietly effectively. Supports Gordon for the leadership, dodges the deputy question.

10:48 pm – apparently you can text QT your comments to 83981, then follow them on Ceefax page 155. I’d forgotten Ceefax existed. Jenny Tonge praises Gordon, buries Tony – “most untrustworthy Prime Minister ever… he has betrayed us all, especially on foreign policy”. Brands John Reid a “pygmy”, then jokily apologises in case she’s been racist. (She was going well until then.)

10:52 pm – member of the public condemns politicians for talking personalities, not policies. Then lays into everybody on the panel with a stream of personal abuse. A sense of irony is apparently beyond her.

10:55 pm – still on the Labour leadership. Q: “Should there be a general election when Tony Blair steps down?” Of course not. Bored now.

Switches over… ITV News tells us that Kate Moss has briefly appeared alongside Pete Doherty at a Babyshambles concert. For all of 5 seconds. Newspaper review: Richard Hammond’s ‘road to recovery’ pic dominates all the front pages.

11:00 pm – Back to QT: Mr Straw predicts the Conservatives “will give us a good run for their money”. Just as well, as the Labour Party doesn’t have any of its own money any more.

Jenny Tonge makes the point that general elections are about manifestos not leaders. Says David Cameron will be a “busted flush” by the next election. I agree.

11:04 pm – Q: “Should political spouses be seen and not heard?” Jack Straw denies Cherie Blair ever said “Well that’s a lie” during Gordon Brown’s speech. Not convinced. If she didn’t she sure as hell thought it (I have that on good authority).

11:08 pm – Piers Morgan: “If your mouth’s as big as Cherie Blair’s no wonder you drop a clanger.” He’s a class act, isn’t he?

Jenny Tonge and Ken Clarke both agree Cherie wouldn’t have been too upset she torpedoed Gordon’s speech.

11:12 pm – just back from the bathroom… what are they talking about?

Ahh, Mr Blair’s catastrophically failed foreign policy.

Ken Clarke’s verdict: “This was the worst foreign policy decision of the twentieth century.” Seems fair comment. Mr Blair, he argues, was in a pivotal position, and could have checked President Bush’s rush to war.

11:15 pm – Jack Straw: Mr Blair was highly successful, persuading Mr Bush to seek UN authority. (Before he then flouted it, of course.)

Damn – Piers Morgan intervenes to point out Mr Straw’s air-brushing of history. Piers annoys me even more when I agree with him.

Jack Straw continues – mistakes made after the invasion. Translation: don’t blame the mess on me, Guv.

11:20 pm – Jenny Tonge: “In 20 years’ time the only memory of Tony Blair will be the grin and Iraq… the whole thing has been a travesty.”

Piers decries Mr Blair’s speech: says he watched it with tears – of laughter – rolling down his face. Trying too hard now, Piers, stop going for the populist round of applause. (What am I talking about. This is Piers Morgan.)

11:24 pm – David Dimbleby to Jack Straw: “Is there anything to apologise for?” Jack has a few regrets, too many to mention. But refuses to apologise. Apparently there were weapons of mass destruction, and Dr Blix said so. Until there weren’t. (That must have been Dr Blix’s mistake. Lucky it wasn’t Mr Straw’s.)

Ken Clarke – to invoke Dr Blix is a travesty: he wanted the weapons inspections to continue. This was ignored by the US and Britain.

[Rant] 42 months later: the arguments still rage, passions still run high. And yet 39% of the population didn’t vote at the last election. Still baffles me. Don’t tell me politics doesn’t matter, that “we’re all the same”. Bollocks to that. [/Rant]

11:32 pm – Nathaniel notes in the comments that Iraq wasn’t the worst foreign policy mistake of the twentieth century (see above). We are, after all, in a new millennium. Fair point. Can we settle for “worst mistake in a hundred years”?

11: 35 pm – It’s over, thank God. It seems to go on far longer when you’re concentrating.

Piers Morgan – you either hate him or you hate him. There’s no middle ground. Jenny Tonge – I’m breathing a sigh of relief. I mainly agreed with her. Jack Straw – he does “reasonable” very well. I could warm to him, but for that nagging little issue of helping mislead this country into war. Ken Clarke – he’s good, y’know. I mean really good. Lance Price – who?

PS: Nathaniel has liveblogged my liveblogging at Pastichio Nuts. All very meta. (Be warned: some adult content.)