By Joe Mellor, Deputy Editor of The London Economic
Before the News at Ten began, David Dimbleby flashed onto the screen to push the biggest question time since Nick Griffin was thrown to the wolves. He mentioned Farage and Brand but didn’t bother to mention the Labour or Tory representative this evening (or the Times journo for that matter). It appeared mainstream politics is even irrelevant on Question Time.
I think the Sunday Times hack must have seen the advert preceding the programme and put up her own paywall, as she didn’t speak for the first ten minutes. Eventually when she did, she reminded me of a stuffy version of DJ Sara Cox, which I later reverted to a dour version.
If anyone did care (they didn’t) the Labour spokesperson was Mary Creagh and the Tory’s representative was Penny Mordaunt, but the public had tuned in for one thing only. Although we complain about Punch & Judy politics, how many more people than usual were watching just to see that from Brand and Farage?
Unfortunately it didn’t live up to expectations, in a statement afterwards Brand admitted it as much. Nothing could, unless they slugged it out with pugil sticks to the cheers of the braying mob. Let’s be honest, the viewing figures for that would be through the roof.
Even Brand hardly answered questions and attacked opponents, basically point scoring like the rest of “that lot”. One audience member challenged him to stand for election if he hated them so much. He later said he thought the bloke was trying to get him to stand so he wouldn’t vote for him, which I suspect was true.
At any moment, I was expecting Farage to open a can of Carling during proceedings just to ensure he was truly the man of the people and Brand did call him out on his “booze and fag down the pub persona”. He probably should have, because for such a “charismatic”, politician, he was really quite boring.
The highlight was Brand calling Farage a “pound shop Enoch Powell”. Someone on Twitter said that statement came from a “Groucho club Che Guevara”. Everyone loves a re-tweet and he got quite a few for that, so pat on the back for him.
However, the most animated performance was not from Brand himself but a blue haired woman at the back of the auditorium, whose outbursts got increasingly angry. To borrow a line for Jamie in The Thick of It, “it’s a pub fight…Motherwell rules”. Luckily (or unluckily) it didn’t spill over into violence.
I guess at this point we should mention the main parties’ representatives’ highlights from this evening, so here goes. At one point Mary Creagh, Lab, went for a bit of populism and said she wants “a great school in every area across the country”. Nobody clapped. Her mainstream ‘let’s state the obvious’ approach made for a ‘tired’ and tested borathon.
Then Penny Mordaunt, Con, defended the privatisation of the NHS and said outsourcing health services to voluntary/charity sector is great. That is true Penny, but they are a lot different to profit driven private health care providers who also win contracts.
You could tell towards the end Brand didn’t feel he had delivered enough blows on Farage, so when a lady in the audience asked whether bringing back grammar schools was a good idea, he turned to Farage and had a go at him. Like a true politician, he crowbarred an argument into an answer.
Right at the death Farage tried to rally his “People’s Army” when he said that only the top few per cent of private school educated people have power in media/politics. Then that is every reason for you to step aside as well Nigel.
What I will say for Brand is that his style of people empowering politics is vastly removed from mainstream Westminster politics, and this was therefore never going to be the forum for him anyway.
There was never going to be a resolution to the discussions this evening. Brand supporters want to hear him scream from the roof tops and Farage’s fans want the same. Both sides views are too extreme and I very much doubt anyone switched sides from UKIP to Brandism (?) last night.
Punch & Judy politics have some new characters. Maybe next time they should bring the pugil sticks.
Sara Cox: Dour