Permit yourself a trip back to 1979. I commend you to the first episode of Question Time currently available on the BBC iPlayer. It’s a wonderful show and maybe, maybe, something to make you hanker after a better, more gentle and more personable age. And blimey, in some cases: how little has changed. Thirty years on we’re still hearing some of the same arguments.
Robin Day is a deliciously acerbic and yet lovable host. The audience questions are less pointed but still uncompromising. The answers are less spun. In fact both Teddy Taylor and Michael Foot offer some quite complex, nuanced answers and neither is overtly attacking or partisan. The Archbishop is likeable and amusing. Edna O’Brian is delightfully rude. It’s difficult not to adore her. Everyone gets a fair hearing. It’s all very jolly.
The audience is perhaps too deferent but they are also engaged, amused and fair. When I watch QT nowadays, I feel annoyed. This show makes me feel warm towards a style of politics that is robust but polite too. I’d like to see something on telly like this again. Serious, solid, friendly and honest. Keep watching for the last questioner and her handbag. It’s hilarious.
Am I being too nostalgic? Or might we all enjoy something similar again today? This more friendly style of debate surely adds as much, if not more, than the bun fights we have come to expect on Question Time and other shows.