Friday, October 01, 2004

Behind the scenes at Question Time

Question Time is, I think, the hardest thing a politician has to do. Everybody thinks that we all know the questions in advance but this is far from the case and we really are put on the spot. Even though you can often predict the general themes that will be discussed the questions are sometimes worded in a way which makes pat answers impossible. I am told that even seasoned performers are sometimes sick with nerves.

It is also difficult for the programme makers to predict the chemistry in a panel - particularly when an element of show biz is added into the mix.

I am a Casualty fan so appreciated the opportunity to meet Kwame and he seemed to be a very genuine and nice bloke.
Ruth Lea I had not met before and all I knew was that she worked for a right wing think tank and had, in the past, expressed some fairly extreme views. I actually liked her but what a lot of people don't appreciate about politics is that we can be friendly with people who don't share all our political views.
Liam Fox was his usual smooth self but Geoff Hoon was the guy who really surprised me. Before the show he shook hands with everyone and seemed very cool, calm and collected but afterwards, when he said goodbye, his palms were rather hot and damp!

After the show the usual drill is that panellists and team get together for a supper. It became clear that the production team had been aware that Tony Blair was going to be admitted to hospital but they had decided not to tell us in case we held back in any criticism of Tony. As if!

There was a bit of a post mortem and Nick Pisani, the producer, was clearly unhappy with the section of the programme where we had discussed the case of the very sick baby and the decision whether to keep the baby alive had reached the Courts. We had all said something similar and the mood had become very sombre -

My personal view is that this is healthy if it happens from time to time and makes a useful counterbalance to the rest of the programme. As ever - it apparently doesn't make good television if there is no disagreement.

Nick asked me how I thought it had gone - and the truth was that I was happier with some bit s than others (I am my own worst critic) but he commented that my comments had generated a lot of applause - so that can't be a bad thing.

Reaction afterwards has been positive but everyone commented on my red suit and that it looked nice on TV! This is fairly standard because apparently research shows that the biggest influencer on the impression you make is appearance and a relatively small proportion of the overall impression is because of what you actually say.

POliticians would like to think otherwise but I am assured that we are not exceptions to this rule!