January 20, 2020
BBC One’s flagship debate show was once serious and slightly boring. How we long for those more sedate times
How Question Time became a festival of bile
In ye olden days of Question Time, the BBC’s flagship political debate programme, the set-up was pretty staid. Politicians sporting a fetching array of combovers would be lined up to answer questions put to them by a studio audience. It was generally illuminating, and fulfilled the Reithian pledge to inform and educate, if not quite entertain. As the big political stories were discussed and disagreements hashed out, the vibe was serious but rarely belligerent. At worst, you might have accused it of being a bit boring.
Oh, how we long for boring now. Where once the programme, which turned 40 last year, was underpinned by a basic civility and the assumption that, when the cameras stopped rolling, jousting participants would shake hands and maybe even go out for a pint; now you would be more concerned about them glassing one another. Even Fiona Bruce, who last year took over hosting duties from David Dimbleby, was moved to remark during a particularly snippy exchange: “We are better than this.” Apparently, we are not.
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