Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Culture
  2. TV & Radio
17 October 2018updated 03 Sep 2021 12:20pm

The anniversary edition of Any Questions? was the usual, bootless, surface programme

Most striking was just how ingrained are a politician’s locutions and phrasing.

By Antonia Quirke

“Who says the young don’t care about politics!” Such was the week-long build-up to the anniversary edition of Any Questions? – featuring an audience (“for the first time!”) of under-25s – expectations of a swarm of seething revolutionaries were high (1.10pm, 13 October). Jonathan Dimbleby – more used to looking out at an audience of red-faced men in yachting caps, then down a panel of steady drinkers avoiding his gaze – was instead faced with a row of measured speakers, each under 30, including Danielle Rowley (Labour’s youngest MP) and Lara Spirit (from Our Future Our Choice). From them came no sighs, snorts, headlines, or scraps. No insults, no drawled mockeries.

The only moment of explicit preening was Tom Pursglove MP (29) on the subject of mental health, noting that the Twitter handle Eye Spy MP had reported he was “out running this evening. If you’re fitter in body then fitter in mind.” No agitated scoffing – merely watchful silence.

It was pretty dull. We learned that climate change is “very worrying”. That “the future will be meat-free” but that “we’ve got to show global leadership on this”. That social media is “a huge concern”, especially “the foul language, the bullying”. There were muted calls for another EU referendum, but it was agreed that the young do not hold ultimate sway. (“It’s dangerous to suggest one person’s vote is worth more than the other.”)

Most striking was just how ingrained are a politician’s locutions and phrasing. Despite the discombobulating politesse, this was the usual, bootless, surface programme (which reached its peak in the late Nineties, when you could still kid yourself that it was like listening to Be Here Now, ie it appears terrible, but everybody might secretly know what they’re doing). Perhaps the producers had been too swingeing in their casting. No sharp-tongued iconoclasts, radical academics or unwitting recruiting sergeants for the hard right, just a room united in meticulously demonstrating their hearts were in the right place. Was I wrong to miss the embarrassingly hostile sentences, and wrong-end-of-stick-gettings, the pompous monologues? Without that to grate, there’s (plus ca change!) not much to like.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

Content from our partners
How to create a responsible form of “buy now, pay later”
“Unions are helping improve conditions for drivers like me”
Transport is the core of levelling up