Question Time 7th February 2019
Motherwell used to be the steel-making capital of Scotland. Ravenscraig was the main employer of some 13,000 people by the 1970’s but a disastrous strike of steel workers saw the collapse of the industry during the 80’s leaving just 3200 employees by the time it was eventually closed in 1992. There is a rump of steel production remaining – now owned by Tata. The consequent unemployment has largely been ameliorated by the influx of service industries. The children and grandchildren of the men who created our steel and were the backbone of the British industrial revolution are now working in call centres. Motherwell was one of just four Scottish constituencies to vote majority independence at the Scottish referendum. And the panel reflects that…
Hugo Rifkind (Times journo. Remainer)
Anneliese Dodds (Labour. Academic. Remainer)
Michael Forsyth (Tory Peer. Banker. Leaver)
Fiona Hyslop (SNP. Remainer)
Eunice Olumide (model and fashion designer. Remainer).
All of the above were either Scottish born or have strong Scottish connections. Unlike QTs held south of the border in which we are likely to find an SNP member telling us our fortunes this one was entirely “home grown” – and not averse to doing exactly the same. Different locale, same message. Except the Brexit paranoia carried with it an equally braying “Independence” demand that caused this viewer for one not a little confusion on just what it is that the Scottish nation as a whole wants.
We have been used to the same kind of introduction to the panel for some programmes now but last night it became very apparent that the BBC realises that it is loading the panel with Remainers precisely because the only Leaver there is described as such and the rest of them not. If you are going to skew the discussion from the outset you don’t want to advertise it do you? Ms.Bruce (Rear of the Year 2010) is beginning to develop some affectations that are somewhat annoying such as looking at the audience and rhetorically asking “what do you think?” or “they don’t think much of your argument” when the audience don’t clap a particular offering. Last night she took upon herself the mantle of the “BBC is always right” when Forsyth accused the BBC of playing up divisions over the Irish border. “Oh, so it’s our fault is it? Oh dearie me, so sorry” in a condescending fashion reminiscent of a playground bully that has just kicked the ball over the fence but says “you shouldn’t have passed it to me should you?”
Two-thirds of the programme were taken up by Brexit and in particular the Tusk “Hell ” description. It was followed by the Liam Neeson farrago.
Hugh Rifkind can be dealt with pretty quickly. He had virtually nothing to say. Almost literally. Apart from a snide swipe at Brexit in general he just sat back and counted the £££s per minute dropping into his bank account. Beats writing anything worthwhile for a living you could almost hear him thinking.
Michael Forsyth held up the Leave banner reasonably high but unlike our own dear Flag waver there was no Puffin atop the spike to ram the arguments home. He knew that he was outnumbered both in the panel and in the audience but having said that he certainly gave Hyslop and Dodds a hard time with a couple of barbed responses.
Strangely – and this I was not expecting – the real venom from the audience was reserved for and aimed at Fiona Hyslop, the SNP member. It would appear that the Scottish worm has turned and the recurring calls from Wee Nippy for another independence referendum is getting on their collective tits. There was one guy in the audience who, if his finger had been loaded with .33 ammo would have plastered Hyslop all over the back wall such was his anger. And the majority of the audience seemed to join in this imaginary Ceausescu execution recreation to judge by the cheering that broke forth. In addition another audience member asked the question that has always been at the forefront of my mind, namely “why on earth do you want independence from England only to hand over the reins of government to Brussels?” For me, that has always been the Bingo! question that has never been satisfactorily answered, nor was it by Hyslop.
Anneliese Dodds, on paper, is not short of the brain cells that is very apparent in some of her fellow Opposition Front Benchers. Sporting her trade mark mad professor hair-do she should be able to convince with well defined arguments. It was less than a year ago that Dodds was laughed at by the QT audience for saying that Labour was “consistent” on Brexit but that was south of the border. Here in Motherwell her lengthy responses got little obvious traction and one wonders just who the good people of the town would vote for at the next GE as all the three main parties seemed to be well out of favour – a trend, I would argue, that is becoming prevalent nationwide.
Which leaves us with Eunice Olumide. No, I’ve never heard of her before either but she ticks the BBC diversity box. It’s a pity she doesn’t tick the “I have reasoned arguments to lay before you” box as her ramblings were stuffed with non-sequiturs that someone of the calibre of Mogg could have politely destroyed in a simple sentence. Arguing for a “uniting of views” over Brexit she would merrily trample on and dismiss the democratic majority vote to er…accomplish that unity. The evidence of the lack of joined-up thinking came with the discussion over the Liam Neesom story. Having been passed the ball she took off up the pitch at a thousand miles an hour, swerving left, swerving right, rounding the ref three times (who looked on bewildered with just where this was going to end up) and after interminable zig-zagging across the “colonial slavery” pitch, past the “chip on the shoulder” dug-outs, she finally booted the question over the bar, over the Stands and out of the arena completely. Having missed the goal she demanded compo from the wicked British spectators for being so nasty to her and for not teaching their children about slavery. William Wilberforce anyone? Nah, he was just one of those 18th century bigots and racists wasn’t he?
Favourite words of the evening? Crash out, cliff edge, catastrophic, foodbanks and, wait for it, the BUS!
Yay! Where would we be without the bus trundling across the stage? Taking this mediocre lot back to their respective hutches one would hope. More of the same next week I suspect.
© Roger Ackroyd 2019