Something odd has happened to the studio audiences in TV political debate shows. They’ve gone super-tonto!
Once so obliging, so placid, they have turned. Now the politicians get a right seeing-to.
Members of the public are no longer content to read a prepared question off a tremulous cue-card.
Now, polite but determined, they come back with supplementary questions, complete with figures and new lines of attack and a nicely sustained scepticism.
It’s like facing a hall full of Andrew Neils.
David Cameron took a pummelling over the way he has lost control of justice and immigration. But the Prime Minister, inevitably more practised at these things, was the smoother, the sleeker, the better at modulating and varying his voice
NPP adds –
“The Prime Minister, inevitably more practised at these things, was the smoother, the sleeker, the better at modulating and varying his voice.”
This is not how I observed it. I thought Farage handled himself well and appeared calmer, more matter of fact, direct and clear in his responses.
The ‘black / brown’ girl who pushed him on racism did not want to listen to the answers – Farage said we have representatives from ethnic background – the girl perpetuated prove it. I suggest she check the UKIP MEP / membership list.
Camoron was and is utterly disingenuous.
The question should be, Prime Minister, are you scared to go face to face and debate?
The accusations of racism are really getting tedious. If Farage is racist, then so too am I Spartacus!
This phenomenon happened again on ITV yesterday evening when first Nigel Farage, then David Cameron went in front of a noticeably educated crowd.
If they thought they were in for an easy ride, they were wrong. The public are concerned and clued-up. And as hot-to-trot as a toreador full of Spanish Fly.
The hour-long, quick-fire programme, presented with crisp discipline by Julie Etchingham (I almost said Julie Andrews), was tricky for both politicians.
The sheer number of questions processed was impressive, albeit a little bewildering. Miss Etchingham held a large pen in her fingers. It could have been a syringe. Bend over, boys.
Mr Farage came under prolonged attack for having allegedly raised racial harmony this week (he denied this).
Mr Cameron took a pummelling over the way he has lost control of justice and immigration.
The Prime Minister, inevitably more practised at these things, was the smoother, the sleeker, the better at modulating and varying his voice.
He does a crinkly-eyed, buttery smile to match anything from the Pillsbury Doughboy. He called one of the Eurosceptics attacking him ‘sir’, while inside possibly thinking of a rather stronger term.
A figure of creamy reassurance – a sort of ‘leave it to me, everyone – I’m the boss around here’.
Grilled: Nigel Farage came under prolonged attack for having allegedly raised racial harmony this week (he denied this). And the Ukip leader was less prepared to soak up the criticisms, telling a woman who attacked him over the Cologne sex attacks to ‘calm down there a little’
Mr Farage was less prepared to soak up the criticisms. ‘Calm down there a little,’ he urged a woman who attacked him over the Cologne sex attacks.
But he kept his cool and it said something for his forthright manner that after disagreeing fundamentally with a couple of his pro-EU questioners, he finished strongly with a prediction – done with a suitable note of sorrow – that the Eurozone was ‘done for, the money’s run out and the EU project doesn’t work’.
A man called Stephen worried about British competitiveness if our wages went up.
Mr Farage said, more than once, that we should be more concerned about getting more money into working-class pockets than fretting about the growth rate.
Harry, a 40-year-old Asian man, told Mr Cameron that unchecked immigration was wrecking his family’s chances.
‘You rolled the dice already,’ he told the PM. Mr Cameron blurted out something about not wanting to live in a Little England.
In both those cases, the politicians were left looking shifty.
As long ago as the 1960s, commentators talked about the decline of automatic respect for public figures – the end of deference.
As both Messrs Cameron and Farage discovered last night, you can no longer take the public for mugs
But the grovelling continued pretty well unchecked, at least in TV discussion shows, until recently.
Studio guests would be overwhelmed by the unfamiliar setting and after asking a question they would sit back and let the political leader yarn away.
As both Messrs Cameron and Farage discovered last night, you can no longer take the public for mugs.
A man called James, for instance, pinged in a serious question about Magna Carta, the Supreme Court and Parliament’s loss of sovereignty. That’s not a TV debate topic, sir. That’s an Oxbridge exam question.
But my favourite question was a less antsy one from Joseph Cook who, rather mournfully, pointed out that no one who came to his shop was ever able to answer the question: ‘Who is your MEP?’
Was that not rather shameful, both about our levels of engagement and also the ability of the EU to engage the millions of people it rules? Mr Cameron looked helpless.
Mr Farage was back in the green room by then but I bet he was roaring with merry agreement.
Who won last night? The audience!
- David Cameron and Nigel Farage appear in ITV debate
- 500,000 people register to vote on last day of registrations
- Government website crashes in last-minute rush to register
- Jeremy Corbyn calls for extension to registration deadline