Question Time 21st March 2019
Tobias Ellwood (Tory. Remainer)
Nick Thomas-Symonds (Labour. Remainer)
Jeffrey Donaldson (DUP. )
John O’Dowd (Sinn Fein.)
Polly MacKenzie (Demos.)
Of this motley crew only Ellwood has a semblance of a public face with his attempts to keep the stabbed policeman outside Parliament alive.
Jeffrey Donaldson had two cousins murdered by the IRA
On paper this looked like one of the most tedious QTs this season with a bunch of nobodies puffing hot air into the febrile atmosphere of Belfast. I am aware that there are good people from N.Ireland among the GP brethren and I will admit that the very particular circumstances of the political scene in the region may well not be on my political antennae but boy, did this episode live down to its low expectations.
Imagine, if you will, standing on the terraces at Barrow F.C. on a wet Saturday afternoon in November expecting your team to bring an exhilaration to their performance against visiting Hartlepool. Well, you’d need your head tested because this motley crew leading the club mascot whippet out onto the pitch – where it promptly wound one down on the centre spot – would as likely have been able to kick the ball in the opponents goal as execute a perfect Argentinian tango. Continuing the football metaphor a little it can be safely described as a game of two halves, both as tedious as the other. Brexit and the Northern Ireland Assembly took up the whole time and as the final whistle blew this dispirited spectator was already wishing he was at home heating up pins on the Aga ready for insertion into eyes that had seen too, too much.
We had every conceivable argument exercised for the WA, second referendum, People’s vote, rescinding Article 50 – everything except actually doing what the majority electorate voted for in the first referendum. And when that was floated in the air by a member of the audience and garnered what sounded like a fairly good round of applause Bruce quickly jumped in to say that “it probably sounded louder on the television than it did here in the hall”. This was exactly the same low trick she pulled last week when an audience member got support for a WTO exit and one presumes her producer fed her the line via the earpiece. It displayed a bias that is now being viscerally pursued by the media and the BBC in particular. I expect it to worsen in the coming days.
It was apparent very quickly that the assembled politicians had become like rabbits transfixed in the headlights of the oncoming deadline. None of them could move from their entrenched positions with Ellwood and Thomas-Symonds just reiterating the same tired cliches that have brought them out on to the open road where one sincerely hopes they will be obliterated by the Brexit juggernaut. Donaldson and O’Dowd had their own little spat born out of the ghettoisation of Northern Ireland and to judge by the partisan reaction of the audience the simmering bad blood is only just below the surface.
The one non-politician on the panel was Polly MacKenzie who it turned out had been an advisor to Clegg. It showed. Her contribution to the Brexit discussion was to suggest that the Leave majority could safely be ignored in favour of “coming together” in a “compromise” that we all know means not executing Brexit at all. Imagine, if you will, the willingness of the Remain side to compromise if the result had been 52/48 in its favour. The duplicity of these people is so far off the scale sometimes that it makes my teeth itch.
The audience seemed to be particularly exercised by gay marriage or the lack of it in the province and if I am not wrong there was an intervention from a curiously androgynous person waving a passport calling herself “a European” and claiming that her “kind” were not accepted here. I have no idea what on Earth she was on about and to judge by Bruce’s face she didn’t either. Kids, identifying themselves as Corbynites, got in on the anti-democratic schtick demanding a second vote since they couldn’t vote in the first and most of the other tedious old arguments got wheeled out. At least we didn’t have the sodding bus aired this week.
Dreadful. Dreadful. Dreadful. One can only hope the pustule of Brexit is lanced next Friday and the phalanx of doommongers are washed away never to be heard from again. It is difficult to critique a programme that served up such third rate panellists. You will notice that I’ve hardly mentioned Thomas-Symonds, the Labour spokesman. That’s because he had nothing to say that was any different from all the other Labour mouth breathers. His only saving grace is that he said it in a shorter time than Barry Gardiner.
Next week, back in the mainland. Sheffield.
© Roger Ackroyd 2019