QUESTION TIME AND OLD NICK                By Tony Dougan

No doubt it was an event. The leader of Albion’s closest thing to a fascist party appeared on a mainstream TV show and was given a platform. I sat with notebook in hand to give a highly factual account of what might just be history in the making. Ten minutes in I threw the notebook to the ground and sat back to watch a pompous, clearly nervous, shuffling bigot who is obviously not the sharpest pencil in the packet, be publicly eviscerated. Is this what it used to be like when the good folk took their children and a picnic to the public disembowelling at the weekend gallows-fest?

Our media, ever watchful of our freedoms, agonised. The good folk and their wise leadership were split. The Nays declared that giving such a fascist a media platform was tantamount to helping them with a recruitment drive and would sow discord and ruin throughout the fair land. The Yays countered that democracy was at stake and that democratic integrity meant that you must sometimes listen to views you despise and detest. The management of B&Q decided that they must declare for the Yay camp and so it was that Nick appeared on ‘Question Time’ sandwiched between David Dimbleby and the divine Bonnie Greer like a limp slab of cheese betwixt two halves of a rustic handmade bun, or even more visually provocative-an ugly little school bully with his beautiful and popular parents outside the Headmaster’s office.

I am reluctant to call attention to the ‘looks’ of politicians or celebrities. I am an unrepentant Platonist and consider the good and the true more essential than, and even essential to, the beautiful. But Nick, I’m afraid, is an ugly man, in charge of a party of very ugly people. It is as if the internal condition of hate and intolerance scours the outside and moulds the very features into a grimace and an evasive scowl. When Nick laughed his face appeared creased into a contradiction. It did not look right.

There was little that was unexpected. Nick attempted to wrap himself in the flag and sought Churchill as a BNP bedfellow. He spoke of criminal scum and sending ‘them’ back. He justified his previously recorded racist and inflammatory remarks and described one of his Ku Klux Klan mates as non-violent. He denied he was a holocaust denier by saying he’d never been nicked for it. He described Islam as oppressive to women. He referred to Jack Straw’s dad having been in prison during WW2 for refusing the draft and compared his own dad who kebabbed the Hun on his bayonet with apparently heroic aplomb. It was all very predictable.

Dimblebly kicked off the public humiliation with gusto, lashing Nick with his own hate-quotes. It was Jovian, with Dimbers hurling thunderbolts from Olympian heights onto a cringing bug. Jack Straw weighed in with equally august mien barely able to contain his disgust and fury at this…this…minion of evil. (Just as an aside I’ve never really forgiven Straw for letting the old murderer Pinochet get away and he was also responsible for arranging the most beneficial pension scheme on the planet for our noble and self-sacrificing MPs. Mr Straw, you are not coming to dinner at my house!)

Chris Huhne of the Liberal Democrats is the living embodiment of that party’s ongoing existential dilemma. Fundamentally decent, clearly and logically reasoned, but sexless, terminally boring and instantly forgettable. I cannot remember what he said.

But what did strike me about this circus act Question Time episode was the quality of stillness, alert engagement and beauty of the two female members of the panel-Playwright Bonnie Greer and the Tory Sayeeda Warsi.

I am coming to my own extreme view that it just might be time to get rid of men entirely from the planet. I think they may be a bad lot with all their back-slapping, shirt-tugging, school playground high jinks. I shall of course remain behind to provide some gender balance.

Oh, the highlight of the evening? Definitely the joke by one of the audience (male) to poor benighted Nick.

“You’d be surprised how many people would have a whip-round to buy you a ticket…to go to the South Pole. That’s a colourless landscape, it would suit you fine.”

I’d happily bung a fiver in. Poor, poor, poor Nick.

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