Doing Question Time

Off to Leeds for Question Time on Thursday, catching the 4.35pm train from Kings X. Spot Harriet Harman and assistant in queue for train and introduce myself briefly – then revert to place in queue.

On the journey have to read all the papers and need to make some notes on key issues that might come up. They give you no idea whatsoever as to the questions.

Arrive in Leeds and all five guests are gathered together and put in a people mover to the TV studios. Banter between Borris (Johnson) and Andrew (Rawnsley); boys’ stuff – who knows more about the leadership contests etc.

Up to the Green Room where banter has disappeared and everyone is shifting nervously about. Some students who have won a competition to produce a Question Time later in the year are wheeled in to meet us – but I honestly too nervous to really talk properly with them.

And suddenly – we’re off. Down to the studio where David Dimbleby is talking to the audience and we are introduced one by one. One warm up question is put (that isn’t broadcast). It is on George Galloway and the oil vouchers. I am surprised that it is used for the warm up – but given the answers, perhaps the possibility of libel meant it was better not used for real!

The Question Time music comes up – and first up is the election results. It seems an age before David comes to me – and I manage to get out a voting reform plea. Second question on ‘hoodies’. Now I know all about hoodies as my teenage daughter a) wears them b) informs me that kids in hoods are nothing compared with the ‘Rude Boys’ (different dress code).

I write down ‘dress code’ and Boris (who I am sitting next to) peers at what I have written – probably a skill learned in school exams when he didn’t know the answer! I give my view – which essentially boils down to any establishment having the right to have a dress code but that the real issue is about how people behave not how they dress. And if their behaviour is a problem – then it needs addressing properly with due attention from teachers, parents, social services etc.

Harriet, for reasons I don’t understand, launches into New Labour speak on ‘yobs’ – but went over the top. I think she was overly defensive – but it can’t be easy being a Labour Minister and – as she had said to me earlier – last time she was on she had made a dreadful faux pas (which I had watched and thought funny) by accidentally referring to ‘Prime Minister Brown’. Funny for us watching – but probably not funny if it’s you saying it.

And so the program went on. When someone suggested Boris as the new Tory leader – Boris did his charming, ruffled, bumbling persona stuff – and he is sooooooo funny and the audience do just love him. I was glad he was there as it relaxed me and just made me laugh too.

And then it was over. I lived!

Afterwards in the Green Room there was a buffet supper and as the program is taped as live about an hour and a half before – it is played on the TV screens as it goes out, but I don’t watch it.

Chatting afterwards – it is clear that I have not stuffed up! That was my horror and my dread – to cock-up Question Time as the new LibDem MP on the first one after the election would have been mortifying.

A car takes myself and the Tory writer Jo-Anne Nadler back to London. Lots of text messages which were really great to get – and lots of phone calls. Home by 2.30am and straight to bed.