First Time Voters’ Question Time

I was in the audience for this ‘special’ edition of Question Time, broadcast live on BBC3 on Wednesday evening. As an opinionated and knowledgeable young person and first time voter in this year’s general election, I sat in the audience feeling insulted by the limited and contrived discussion taking place around me. Some members of the panel referred to the audience as “you guys” – they came across as patronising and detached from the realities of young people in Britain. Tim Campbell (political expert extraordinaire…) told us not to “sit idly”, as though young people in Britain are stuck in the state of nature, waiting to be enlightened and coaxed from the cave and thus enabled to contribute to a higher, nobler political life. Campbell said, “You can’t then complain if you don’t get the stuff that you want.” When an inflexible two-party political system with a dull and pandering third party doesn’t offer anything, perhaps Tim Campbell could explain the incentive to vote? The experience was tedious at best and utterly offensive at worst.

(Stills taken from BBC3 First Time Voters’ Question Time, broadcast on 3rd March 2010)

Questions were chosen very carefully and were edited to be ‘impartial’. Audience members were encouraged to be ‘lively’ and ‘provocative’. Difficult that, seeing as more radical audience members were sussed out in the warm-up questions and not chosen to comment once the programme went live. My question, for example, was a policy question on the living wage. The questions chosen to air were not related to any concrete policy decisions, which meant that panel members were under no real obligation to talk about policy. Answers to a question relating to struggling graduates were vague and the party representatives took the opportunity to sling mud at each other instead of offering positive alternatives. Panel members spent much of the hour talking about talking to young people, to “you guys”. There was hardly any scope of discussion and the choice of questions allowed panel members to skip around the same, repetitive themes. My verdict: a redundant exercise in puffing out thin subjects for discussion over an hour-long program.

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