Politics on radio should be boring

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The Independent Online

"I don't often agree with people who appear on Feedback," said the lady with red and green hair. "But ..."

"I don't often agree with people who appear on Feedback," said the lady with red and green hair. "But ..."

"What's Feedback?" said the man with the dog, as he took a first swig from his first pint of the evening.

"It's a BBC Radio 4 programme," said the red and green lady, "where the listeners can write in and say what they enjoyed recently."

"Though, human nature being what it is," said the resident Welshman, "they mostly write in to complain."

"Yes," said the red and green lady. "The other day there was someone who wrote to complain that Any Questions was politically biased."

"Towards what ?"

"Towards politics."

"I don't understand."

"They were complaining that three out of the four panelists were always party politicians, that the questions were always politically angled and that the whole thing always turned into a miniature House of Commons."

"That should suit the BBC," said the resident Welshman. "You can always achieve balance by presenting every side of the argument. The fact it makes for dreary radio is neither here nor there."

"Well," said the man with the dog, "isn't it nice to have a forum where you can hear some proper political debate on air ?"

"But you can't!" said the red and green lady. "That's my whole point! It's never a proper debate! It's just a ritual swapping of party positions! And when they asked Jonathan Dimbleby how the questions were selected, he said, Well, of course, they have to be topical and taken from the week's news ... and what I want to know is, WHY? Why do we always have to be limited to the week's news? It's all so BORING!"

Did I mention that the red and green lady changes her hairdo to match the colour of her current tipple? Recently she has gone over to Pimm's for the summer, and the green is to represent the bit of cucumber, she says.

"In defence of the Dimblebys," said the resident Welshman, "I think the programmes they preside over do reflect the way the population thinks and talks. That is to say, shallowly and parochially. When did you last hear a well-informed, globally aware discussion in a pub? When did you last overhear British people talking about issues? All you get is people saying, You can't believe anything Tony Blair says, or I wouldn't trust that Michael Howard as far as I could throw him. THAT'S what people mean by politics in this country. By those standards, Any Questions is pretty damned intellectual!"

It isn't often the Welshman gets in the least worked up. We sat open-mouthed and impressed.

"That's what's wrong with people in pubs," he went on. "They aren't organised properly. To have a really proper British pub conversation, what you'd need is three people at the bar prepared to parrot the positions of each of the main parties, and one person prepared to offer a non-partisan and irrelevant viewpoint!"

We considered this strange proposal.

"Who would ask the questions?" said the man with the dog.

"You'd write them down on a piece of paper as you came in the pub," said the Welshman, "then put them in a hat and draw them out as the evening progressed."

"Bloody strange way to organise a conversation," said the man with the dog.

"Jonathan Dimbleby doesn't think so," said the Welshman.

"Can I ask something?" said the Major, who had been sitting listening to all this, slightly bemused.

"Certainly," said the Welshman. "And the next question comes from ... your name, please ?"

"My name is the Major," said the Major, "and my question is this: Why don't we change the subject and talk about something interesting instead?"

So someone started a discussion about the England football team's chances in Euro 2004 and amazingly boring it was, too.

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