I suppose there is a case for finding out the specific views of first time voters, although I'm not sure it's a strong one. Politicians and the media spend rather a lot of time pandering to young people, and certainly the most frustrating part of the First Time Voters' Question Time that BBC 3 broadcast this evening was the debate about why young people weren't fully engaged in politics. Young people are disengaged from traditional politics for a variety of reasons, not least their own unwillingness to spend time considering often complex issues, and their preference for trivial, personality led media. But that doesn't mark them out especially from the rest of the population. We live in a democracy, and if you don't like the people running it you have the absolute right, perhaps even duty, to put your head above the parapet and get involved. And the politicians who have done that, who have stood before an electorate, who have tried to pursue public service and been elected in the process, whatever their manifold flaws, need to be a lot less defensive about what they are doing and start being a bit more aggressive.
Of the panellists, I never thought I'd see the day where I thought David Lammy was moderately impressive, but he was both the most genuine and the most passionate of the political guests, even if he still suffers from a peculiar difficulty of articulation. He scores highly when he takes time to think about what he is saying, and departs from the government line to give a more personal view. The Tories' Jeremy Hunt was a bit of a nonentity, failing to make any real impression, and making the cardinal error in his first answer of descending quickly to a bit of tedious party politicking, which should go down badly with any audience. As for Julia Goldsworthy, her desperate efforts to come across as the 'anti-politician', the breath of Liberal fresh air who's down wiv it amongst the yoof, well she was frankly painful to watch. Her humourless stridency and self-righteousness were enough to turn anyone away from the Lib Dems. Amongst the non-politicians, Apprentice winner Tim Campbell was surprisingly good, Jamelia was a bit pointless, and Rory Bremner was simply embarrassing. His extraordinary belief that vast numbers of young people in this country are politicised over such issues as climate change and poverty in Africa beg the question as to which planet he's actually visiting from. Most young people are not remotely politicised, and their interests range to their social lives and what sort of jobs they might get. Pretty well the not unreasonable interests of most people in Britain. Dermot O'Leary was an engaging host, even if he did get a little too involved in a dialogue with a lamentably uninteresting member of the audience who seemed to want to blame anyone but herself for her lack of knowledge about politics.
On the day when a genuine political giant - Michael Foot - has died, this programme sadly showed us how limited our current politicians really are. The Question Time format is a great one, but only if the politicians can confidently articulate a clear vision of what they stand for, and have the integrity not to pander to the audience but to persuade them and even argue with them. David Lammy nearly did this at points, to his credit, but even he is too prone to a bit of craven pandering. Audiences are not some form of holy writ and politics is about proper debate, not weak posturing. Let's hope the leaders' debates show us a bit of quality - at this rate I'll be rooting for Gordon Brown, so long as he gives us a bit of passion and puts his celebrity lapse behind him!