The verbal boxing arena on Thursday night was set with two key players going head to head. In one corner sat comedian and self-proclaimed activist Russell Brand, in the other leader of arguably Britain’s fastest growing party – UKIP.
We always knew it was going to be a controversial episode; both Farage and Brand are renowned in the media for making outlandish statements. Yet, similarities between the two characters were rife in Thursday’s episode where neither seemed to offer ‘the alternative’ solution they’ve been pushing in the media over the last few months.
The first question attacked the ‘petty adversarial nature of politics’ and whether it was causing its own decline. As both Brand and Farage battled to try and demonstrate why they were the solution to the problems within politics, they proved the point of the question. There was constant talking over one another, no one was listening and childish insults were being thrown around left right and centre. At one point, Labour’s shadow international development secretary Mary Creagh MP had to ask Brand to be quiet, pointing out that talking over a woman was rude and wouldn’t get him anywhere. The behaviour was, in my mind, quite frankly disgraceful. Panellists kept referring to Prime Minister’s Questions as a Punch and Judy-esque arena, yet this was exactly what was happening on Thursday night’s programme. If anything, the uncivilised and point scoring behaviour employed by Brand and Farage cemented in people’s mind that everyone in politics is the same. They argued as ministers do in Parliament with a lack of respect and sincerity which has dissuaded me entirely of their prospects as the next big political change.
I found this severely disappointing. Whilst I don’t agree with either of their agendas, I was hoping that they would use Question Time as a platform to demonstrate a sense of credibility in their ideas and prove that they were different from the rest. Yet they failed to dissuade me from my opinion that they are just image obsessed careerists hungry for supporters.
What was more saddening was the way in which their attitudes seemed to permeate their way into those of audience members. One woman throughout was heckling Farage, shouting ” he’s a racist scumbag trying to blame immigrants for the cutbacks because of his rich banker friends!” sparking a conflict with another audience member who was trying to make a point at the time. Ultimately, as politicians are in the public eye so frequently and often hold power, they naturally become figures that people respond to. If the most recent Question Time is to be taken as an accurate portrayal of the way they behave then I am disgusted that such idiots have the privilege of representing us if all they do is have a negative impact on our behaviour, making it seem acceptable to behave like drunkards in a brewery on national television.
This leads me on to another example of why viewers of Question Time may be even more disillusioned with politics. When panellist Penny Mordaunt MP, Communities and Local Government minister, was attempting to defend why in the future she would not take a pay rise, her answer led her to explain what a politician was there to do. She said:
“we are there to make decisions for people, to try and get people to change their behaviour, to persuade a business to set up another business, to employ more people to take risks and to persuade people who haven’t been in work to maybe get into work.”
No wonder the audience member who had challenged the minister’s current acceptance of an 11% pay rise responded with “I don’t know what she’s talking about” – because neither do I.
As far as I am concerned, politicians are there to represent us; we elect them every 5 years to act on our behalf. Unless I’ve been missing the point of democracy in this country over the last few decades, Penny Mordaunt MP seems to have no idea what she is there to do. Although she states that they are a decision making force, the outcomes of government decisions are rarely publicly supported; one only has to look at the recent anti-porn legislation protests to realise there is public unrest towards policy. Yet this underpins what I think this week’s Question Time really demonstrated. Everybody is clearly missing the point of politics. Politics is supposed to be a people focussed forum. It’s not about those at the very top; what they’ve said, who they’ve slept with etc. It’s about doing what’s best for those that they govern. If even the politicians themselves are disillusioned with their roles, how can the public put their faith in them?
Thus, I would argue that until politicians go back to basics and realise what they’re supposed to be doing, the idea of a disillusioned public will continue to fester. I’m not even shocked by the outbursts that took place under Dimbleby’s watch on Thursday, I’m just surprised it took me this long to realise just how dissatisfied I am with Britain’s political situation.