Freeze Frame: Question Time

"I wish I understood it" - Fern Britton crashes and burns

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Ah, Question Time. When will you find that elusive balance between serious political debate and populist plain speaking? Sometimes QT can be too dry and politician-heavy – witness last week’s soporific edition from Aberdeen – but last night, perhaps inviting Fern Britton onto the panel was a step too far the other way.

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Britton started nervously, beginning her answer to a question on the Greek economic crisis by saying “I wish I understood it as fully as all of you…” before announcing that she would deal with the topic “from a human point of view”. This led her to decide that Greece shouldn’t be allowed to go bust because “we are, apparently, ‘all in this together’ as world citizens”.

She then made an uncertain reference to the International Monetary Fund – a body she implied she had first been told about by fellow panellist John Redwood in the green room before the broadcast.

On the discussion moved to pensions reform, with Britton apparently misunderstanding a question on the general problem as being purely about raising the retirement age for women.

Britton fared no better with the Afghanistan war, offering that the country is “a very dangerous place” before bringing a softer but rather vague perspective to the discussion: “Are we actually talking to these people? Talk is so much cheaper and easier and friendlier. I know this sounds a little bit wishy-washy, but surely it’s better than going in and bombing civilians, killing our own troops with friendly fire, and everything else.”

She added: “I’m quite certain that there is a vast and long spectrum of Taliban members, al-Qaeda members – and some of them, probably the majority, are reasonable enough to sit and talk with.”

After that, chairman David Dimbleby seemed reluctant to ask Britton for further contributions.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be too hard on Britton – career politicans have been known to crumble under the pressure of a Question Time appearance – but this was truly a car crash.

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Britton was still trending on Twitter at noon today, for all the wrong reasons.