Friday, 26 March 2010

If it's Friday, it must be Glasgow

I came north on the first train to take part in a BBC Radio Scotland radio discussion programme and check in with the powers that be.

Being in the company of (as they sat) Nicola Sturgeon, Douglas Alexander, Annabel Goldie and Jo Swinson - all together in one room on the Clyde - is intimidating enough at the best of times. Then Brian Taylor walked in and we were all intimidated - although he insisted he was doing nothing of the sort.

But it was not until I arrived at Pacific Quay that it dawned on me that the live programme was being broadcast in front of a live audience. By then it was too late to back out, or even find a tie to wear.

But being a member of Her Majesty's press, and being at the end of the panel line up, is an easy gig compared to being a living, walking politician in front of an audience at election time.

I can't remember most of my answers to the questions, I just hope they weren't too flippant. But looking down the line as others took their turn I could see them calibrating every word and carefully assessing the impact of what they were saying.

They make it look easy, but like swans, they must be paddling like fury beneath that calm exterior. Nicola and Douglas were willing to spar so most of the action took place at the other end of the table.

The audience was no pushover either. There a lot of anger against the political class, impatience with the rhetoric that doesn't admit cuts in public spending are coming towards us like a freight train and plenty informed opinion on a whole range of issues.

Lots was covered, from the budget to the prospect of a hung parliament through to the "meow meow" epidemic, which I now know is called that because its chemical name contains "m-cat".

Some anti-politics sentiment in the crowd too, over expenses and sleaze. No one threw rotting fruit, at least. This election is too important not to take part, was my answer to that "curse on all their houses" questioner who would not put an x in any box.

It was fun, listen to Brian's big debate here. But hats off to the pros, answering questions instead of asking them - it's a lot harder work than it looks.

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