Oh how BBC Question Time has fallen and descended into a shadow of its former self. Once a flagship politics discussion programme it would welcome the political giants of the day, Tony Benn and Michael Foot on the left, Roy Jenkins and David Owen in the centre, Keith Joseph and Nigel Lawson on the right.
The audience would marvel at the intellect on display and a time when politics and politicians were taken seriously, the same audience would politely ask a question and the politician would do something completely radical like answer it.
Vegas style showdown
Wind forward thirty years to the Las Vegas-esque hyped showdown between Nigel Farage and the complete lightweight that is Russell Brand. The audience were baying for blood as the two prized fighters entered the Question Time ring in a place so far removed from Las Vegas you could be on another planet: Canterbury.
Brand came out fighting in the early rounds, with his vulgar interventions and constant interrupting of the other members of the panel. He kept going on about the wicked City bankers and the mates of ‘that dude’ Farage ‘farting’. He then called Penny Mordaunt ‘love’. That sent mother superior Mary Creagh into a rage. She slapped him down saying the public hated ‘men talking over women’. The ranting continued with Brand bawling about Farage: ‘This man ain’t Del Boy. He’s a Pound Shop Enoch Powell and we’ve gotta watch him.’ Farage shuffled but was not rocked by the punch.
Descending into the Wild West
The BBC with their carefully selected audience managed to turn Question Time into an old Wild West dust up in the saloon. ‘I’m a comin’ for you, Farage!’ screamed what looked like a woman possessed in the audience with a dubious set of teeth and flash of blue dye in her hair. Her intervention was then punctuated with a further blast of eloquence, ‘He’s a racist scumbag!’
Before Nigel could answer, from the midst of flying bar stools, shots in the air and the sound of broken whiskey bottles Nigel’s new found wing-man emerged. ‘Rubbish’ bellowed the man from the audience. By the way this was the same man who had only two minutes before crushed the squeaky voiced, lightweight, multi-millionaire alleged stand-up comic. ‘Stand for Parliament then!’ Nigel's wing man shouted. Brand looked as though he had taken one direct to the kidneys. ‘Stand!’ repeated the man. ‘Do it!’
Brand buckled and fell towards the ropes, ‘I’m scared I’d become one of them,’ he protested. The audience would not accept this feeble excuse with groans and jeers all round. Brand as an MP? Imagine this man calling Mr Speaker ‘mate’ and having to declare his income? He would bring a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘political fraud’. Nigel's wing man was not done yet. ‘You can’t preach that, that’s rubbish!’ Brand, was now taking the type of punishment that usually sees referee Dimbleby stepping in. ‘I’m not preaching mate.’ Not preaching? All Brand did in the first part of the show was preach!
Is Britain overcrowded? More shouting
We then got to the meat of the show, a question on overcrowding. A young lady dared to suggest that immigrants should be vetted. This provocation led to the second intervention from the hysterically possessed woman shouting the mantra of the far left -‘racist’. The young lady turned on her big time, ‘You, are the rudest woman I’ve ever met. You need to back off and mind what you say!’ The audience erupted, some applauded, some booed and poor Dimbleby aged five years in five minutes.
Farage throughout these exchanges dodged the weak punches aimed at him by Brand and the audience and appeared almost statesman like in his answers. The other members of the panel, mother superior Mary Creagh, the very impressive Camilla Cavendish and even the muted Penny Mordaunt also made Brand look pretty erratic and pathetic.
Brand attempted one last throw of the dice with his answer to the immigration question. A young man told Brand he was out of order on immigration. Brand pleaded with him to be nice, claiming: ‘I come from the same community as you. But I’ve gotta few bob now.’ A few bob? More like a few million you mean Russell?
A bad night for debate
My conclusion? It was a non-event. Farage did not provide the left with what they wanted, a frothing of the mouth racist who said something outrageous. Instead, Farage was measured throughout. Brand started brightly and then realised he was on a serious political debating programme not Live at the Apollo (where he should perhaps stay) and seemed to have only one trick in his box. Overall, a bad night for the BBC and intelligent political discussion in our country.