I've never been to Question Time before so it was quite a learning experience to go to my first one earlier today in Cambridge. I'd raced back from Colchester where I'd been helping out with leafletting for some socialists standing as independents in the local elections and was a bit tired, but none the less I'll write a few notes on how it went.
The first thing I noticed is that the panel line up was unremittingly right wing. Charles Clarke, Shadow Chancellor and Cameron clone Osborne, Vince Cable - pro-privatisation co-author of the Orange Book and new Lib Dem deputy leader and some journalist who has just left the Telegraph cos it was too liberal (Janet Daley, I had to look it up again).
Usually there is at least one person who is bearable but there didn't seem to be any ray of light here. Not a good sign, but then the programme began and I have to say I thought the audience leant to the right as well, which was really disappointing.
A precis of the views from the floor
The NHS - all those greedy workers sucking up wages are a real problem.
That bloody Chameleon advert - it's a bit of a laugh isn't it.
Law and Order - rehabilitation? We must lock up 'criminals' to be safe in our beds
The BNP - they've got a bit of a point haven't they?
The Monarchy - a rousing chorus of God Save the Queen
I expected the panel to be bad but when 90% of the audience burst into applause over how great the Queen is... jeeez!
Counting those that I know there were about ten progressive activists in the audience all with their hands up - none of them called for their questions or comments during debate unfortunately (although I'm not suggesting conspiracy on the latter at least)
Incidently before it began that nice old chap Dimbleby told us they never cut anything from the show - well they did! There was a juicy bit of slander they chopped out... man I'm used to being lied to but it still hurts. It was over negative campaigning and a mad UKIP woman in the audience attacked the Tory for Cameron's anti-UKIP rant the other day. Osbourne said, but you are closet racists and the UKIP founder, Alan Sked, agrees. She then replied something like "he's a warped, twisted and bitter little man." But that outburst did not make it onto the show, cut out, expunged, eradicated... shame - it's nice to see these eccentric spittle flecked maniacs flap at each other.
But my main worry is that in a liberal town like Cambridge, where racism and homophobia are notably lower than many places, it was the right that dominated the floor. With a socialist political alternative never further away, with the mass public sector strikes a flop, with the anti-war movement running out of steam, ideas and utterly directionless is the UK moving to the right?