It was rubbish- a disservice to us the audience. And it's not about the format, it's about the presenters. Jeremy Paxman and Kay Burley are everything that is iffy with modern Britain - a bully and an average. Soft questions floated over to the Prime Minister when we could have heard him challenged (Q & A with an audience - what audience?) and playground antics propelled at both candidates when they had the time and space to bury themselves unaided within a seemingly soft environment, (one-on-one interview). Spinning afterwards was all about how they answered or not answered. How about turning the tables on the interviewer? Paxman managed to do so little in such a lot of time - at best cattle prodding, which I guess takes talent, in the Australian outback.
And, as usual, nothing got answered - what is the point of it all? I am not sure why we watch these things. Maybe just a morbid fascination that they won't fall over, dribble or pass wind. And a human curiosity to see up close how they perform under stress - Ed Miliband was seared with a question about his brother David being the true heir to the Labour Party leadership (yawn but let's see him squirm). And Paxman just insulted him in the end, concluding his full-mouthed rebarbative spillage with an "Are you alright?". And what about us? He might be a busy man but so are the rest of us. And we're surprised why so many disengage from the political process? Who should we include in the blame game for this?
All that public school-trained debating sharpness of wit and intelligence which we think distinguishes British journalism and analysis from anodyne reporting elsewhere, is no different from Fox Cable knee-jerk punching. Alas the Top Gear debacle and Paxman's performance (both from proponents of sharp intelligence perhaps thirty years ago) have descended the slippery slope of loutishness. If I had worked as hard as Jeremy Paxman in his professional career and saw myself performing the way I did last night I would be thoroughly depressed with myself. Jeremy, get a grip and deflate that chest, and calm your insecurities about your continued validation as you age. You are nowhere near combative, just annoyingly distracting. When you rely on withering looks and an "I don't give an F who you are" sitting posture, you should not be doing the job. Or is this a Jeremy Clarkson cry for help?
In Paxman's hands nothing substantive was learnt - as I said a disservice. Give us Charlie Rose please. Give us some talented interviewers who create a path of communication in which potholes appear within the smooth trajectory of respect, while including some modicum of deference to a person who, whether you like it or not, was voted into his or her position, as much as we might think them unworthy. Let them hang themselves without having to spit back at every other word they utter. The more Paxman distracts, the loser the noose of being caught short on a pledge or promise on their part. Let the candidates bang on about their manifesto because the more they do the less confident the public becomes. Stop assuming the public is stupid and can be seduced by repetitive party lines. The scoop; in a second of inadvertence, in the betrayal of an ignorance, in an intellectual (not personal) wounding, will only emerge if you stop throwing petards in their path. You'd be amazed how easy it is to trip on their own shoe-lace, still tied.