Yesterday evening's Question Time, hosted as usual by David Dimbleby, was quite interesting. Unfortunately the leaders of the three main political parties did not appear together for questioning by the studio audience, but serially - Charles Kennedy for the Liberal Democrats came first, followed by Michael Howard for the Conservatives with the grand vizier himself, Tony Blair for Labour, climaxing the evening.
You can see links to each of the three's performances below:
Charles Kennedy - video, BBC text report;
Michael Howard - video, text report;
Tony Blair - video (*), text report (*);
- (*) the video clip and text report have been shortened to cover only part of the questioning of Blair, some way through his half hour, when the questioning turned to GP appointments. However, the whole 90 minute programme video link is here - fast forward on your media player to about 58 minutes into the programme to see Blair's whole performance;
- there is also a text summary of the questions each of the three was asked, together with their responses, here, so you can read the whole Blair half-hour;
- BBC analysis here of the various performances, by Nick Assinder;
I agree broadly with this analysis, but my comments are these:
- Kennedy probably came off best, possibly because the questions were mostly gentler. Few (even Mr Kennedy himself) expect the LibDems to have to form a government next week, even if they improve their representation in Parliament, so I suspect that at this stage no-one really cares much, one way or the other, what the LibDems say, as it is probably just not that important;
- Howard was given quite a rough ride, but in my view responded pretty robustly to all the questions and 'barbs' thrown at him. Some of the questions were sensible, if pointed, some were completely off-base;
- Blair managed to hold his own pretty well throughout the questioning on Iraq, even if what he was saying was hardly popular with many of those in the audience. People either believe he 'lied', or that he did not. I suspect strongly that he did not lie, although he seems to have 'moulded the argument' very much to achieve the result he wanted. However, where he really came unstuck was when the questions moved on to a discussion of GP appointments. It is quite obvious that this was complete news to him, and equally obvious that it was not just some isolated incident that one particular questioner wanted to highlight. At the end of the programme he was sweating profusely and looked really pleased that the whole thing was over.
In summary - Kennedy performed well; Howard on balance did reasonably well given the hostile nature of some of the questions; Blair started off pretty robustly, but was completely unmanned by an unexpected line of questioning. His was certainly the most revealing performance.