Once again into the fray in TV’s gladiatorial circus

I did two TV appearances in one day yesterday – the first on the BBC’s daily Politics Live, and the second on the BBC’s flagship political debate show, Question Time. It was the first edition of Question Time with Fiona Bruce in the chair after the retirement of its venerable anchor David Dimbleby who had become something of a national institution. So it was a show that attracted much attention and considerable comment in today’s newspapers.

All eyes were on Fiona and whether she could fill Dimbleby’s patrician shoes. You can watch the show below. I appear fairly near the start at around 6.53 in, and there were fireworks with a repellent “comedian” near the end (that whole sequence starts at 38.46 in).

I was able to say rather more on Politics Live, mainly about Brexit (of course) but also on other topics. There were some feisty exchanges! You can watch the whole show here until January 29.

If you want to fast forward, you can find me talking about the fantasy of thinking there’s any alternative to the choice between Mrs May’s deal and no-deal at around six minutes in; how this is shaping up as a crisis of parliament v the people at around 11.55; why a second referendum is a dishonest ploy at around 23.40; why no-deal is the only way to honour the referendum result at around 29.35; Speaker Bercow’s Humpty-Dumpty politics at around 32, and my response to the “ageist” comedian at around 38.

I wrote an instant commentary on Question Time after it was recorded (as usual, about an hour and a half before transmission) for today’s Times (£). I can’t republish the whole piece as the usual paywall restriction applies, but I provide an extract here.

The difficulty of chairing it became apparent when the argument between Emily Thornberry, the shadow foreign secretary, and James Cleverly, the Conservative vice-chairman, went on for far too long.

David would probably have shut that down earlier. But stopping politicians in full flow is a particular skill that can only come with experience.

Fiona will probably be mulling that over. But her style was refreshing, if different. If David was the stately cruise liner sailing serenely on through the squalls around him, Fiona was more like a darting jet-skier.

The question in my mind was about the joke that David always made at the end of every recording (the show is recorded about an hour and a half before transmission). When it finished, having asked the audience to wait for just a little longer, he would listen intently to the voice in his earpiece and then announce with cod relief: “I’m glad to say the recording has actually worked.”

It never failed to produce a belly laugh, every time. So would Fiona make the same joke? She didn’t.

Ah well, end of an era.

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