Monday, December 22, 2008

Will Young to Appear on Question Time

Last night on Radio 5 Live's Stephen Nolan Show I took part in a 15 minute discussion on ... wait for it ... whether it is right for Will Young to appear as a guest on Question Time. Question Time had issued an embargoed press release about him appearing on a show in the New Year.

As you know, I have great doubts about celebrities appearing on political programmes - not just Question Time, but also This Week. It sometimes seems as if the producers sit in a huddle and think to themselves: "Well we got Timmy Mallett on last week. How do we go one better? Anyone for Benny from Crossroads?"

However, that doesn't mean I am against non politicians or even celebrities appearing. But only if they have something to say. We can all remember the buttock-clenchingly embarrassing performances from Alex James from Blur, The Sun's Emma Jones and Shane McGowan on This Week (among others).

Will Young is a different case though. He studied politics at university, is eloquent and I reckon he will be able to contribute to the debate as an equal, assuming he is willing to take a position and risk offending some of his fans.

I was on the radio with James Panton from the Manifesto Club, who took a much more fundamentalist view than me on this. He thinks all these programmes should be a politician free zone. We were both accused of being snobs (mainly because I mentioned Jade Goody, I suspect) by an elderly lady who phoned in!

There's nothing snobbish about wanting political programmes to be proper discussion forums. Any Questions has not gone down this celebrity route and remains an oasis of intelligent discussion. Clearly it is right for the BBC to encourage more people to watch its political programmes, but it should also remember that there are at least half a million people out there for whom politics is very important. They need to be catered for too on the mainstream channels - not just BBC Parliament.


Simon Holder said...

Is the photo from your personal collection? :-)

Chris Paul said...

They let the feather-weight Adam Rickitt on and Will Young is several cuts above ... and what's more several cuts above the vacuous Nadine Dorries who did rabbit-in-headlights on the last programme of the session. To complete silence from Tory blogs.

Dick the Prick said...

If the lad's been a nerd from an early age and blagged a degree in then cool. You can't slate someone who loves the subject. Not many people can quote Bagehot or even know who the dude was.

I remember the Emma Jones one - that was a car crash in the fast lane of the M1 - unbelievable.

Yeah you're right. As long as the lad is honest and sticks to his convictions then job's a good un. Jeez, after Esther Rancid the other week who was blatantly touting for a gig.

He was on Wossy's radio show the other week and seems like a nice lad with an eccentric family. I'd be surprised if he was Labour but probably a bit lefty - guess I would be with a healthy bank balance and working 1 hour a week.

Anonymous said...

Is Will Young only 'different' because you fancy him? haha

There is no reason why political shows shouldn't have guests on who are from all walks of life. It's 'the people' who choose our politicians - so 'the people' should be free to voice their concerns.

However, look at it from a different angle...would I want Iain Dale being a guest on a 'cultural' show talking about art, music, theatre? errrmmm maybe not...I can already imagine Iain bringing up Mama Mia as a reference to high culture...

maybe we're all snobs. stick to what you know?


Happy Christmas.

Anonymous said...

I always thought 18 Doughty Street should have done a politician-free version of Question Time. The problem with QT is that you just get the same bland lines repeated again and again - nobody wants to risk saying anything that might offend. You'd get far more sense if you had a panel of bloggers.

There you go Iain. New project for you.

................................. said...

will he be wearing a shirt?

hope not.

OBC News said...

I have slight reservations having seen previous 'serious' interviews with Mr Young (and like many the idea of a degree in politics doesn't impress me in the slightest) but he cannot be anywhere near as bad as that man-in-a-dress who was on the other week.

Paddy Briggs said...


You use the word “celebrity” without qualification or explanation. But the inference is that Will Young is a celebrity and not much else whereas, of course, politicians are not celebrities but of much deeper worth. Isn’t the pure definition of a celebrity simply someone who is well known – famous even? If so then David Cameron is a celebrity, subset political celebrity and Will Young is a celebrity, subset singer/actor celebrity. There are also, I suppose, some people who are just famous for being famous and nothing else (e.g. Paris Hilton). But there are thankfully not too many of them.

So the issue re QT is do they only want reasonably famous people on the prog (probably yes) and what the qualification for appearance is. Not all the questions are strictly political so it is not only a political programme, even if substantially it is. And we certainly don’t just want politicians passing judgment on political or any other matters (heaven forbid).

Back to Will Young. Is he articulate and intelligent and able to pass on a coherent view on matters outside his obvious area of expertise? If so why should be not be on QT? He has spoken at the Oxford Union which suggests that he isn’t a dumbo after all!

Paul Linford said...

Emma Jones was more a victim of hype than anything else. For some reason The Sun seemed to think she was going to be Jane Moore, Richard Littlejohn and Trevor Kavanagh rolled into one. If they hadn't heaped all that expectation on her she would have had a longer career in national journalism.

neil craig said...

"able to contribute to the debate as an equal, assuming he is willing to take a position and risk offending some of his fans."

If only representatives from the 3 main parties were also able speak without offending the hierarchy.

My nomination would be Clarkson. Or almost any professor of maths, physics or engineering. Susan Watts too. There are a lot of people in the qworld who are neither politicians nor show biz celebrities but who nonetheless manage to be quite intelligent.

Desperate Dan said...

The ubiquitous Will Young failed to make the grade as a pop singer and now he's decided to foist himself on us as political pundit. Public life is hopelessly cluttered with uninteresting mediocrities who've got themselves an agent and want to be famous.
After Young's overt hunger for fame and celeb status over the past few years, his attempt to transmogrify into a commentator on world affairs is ludicrous.

Iain Dale said...

Failed to make the grade as a pop singer? You are so very out of touch. Each of his 4 albums has been a bestseller and he's one of the mot popular male singers in the country? Don't you think that constitutes making the grade?

strapworld said...

Question Time in the old days did npt have politicians. Indeed Any Questions on the radio last week was a total joy. No politicians and we had a difference of views but a far more interesting discussion amongst the participants.

Those I expected to take the Labour line were suprisingly candid, similarly those from the right.

It was a joy and a pointer to what Question Time should be. Interesting people with views of their own. It certainly adds to the debate and would give political parties far more to chew over.

For instance to hear all particpants agree that there should be an Immediate enquiry into the Iraq War should have been a wake up call to Brown!

Desperate Dan said...

Yes, I admit I'm sadly out of touch. I'd failed to register Will Young's omnipresence at the top of the charts.

Doubting Richard said...

Surely having studied politics at university should preclude Mr Young from appearing?

Bill Quango MP said...

Nadine was a bit wafty.
But Esther doing the Davina "Agree with everything the audience says"
was just cringing.

Shamik Das said...

I think we need more "celebrities" on Question Time and This Week.

The more out of their depth they look, the more humiliated they get by the professionals, the better!

Maybe then the public will be able to see them for the vacuous, vainglorious and talentless bunch of overpaid, out-of-touch nonentities they are.

Jade Goody, Cheryl Cole, Peter Andre, bring 'em on!

Ross said...

There's no reason in principle why a celebrity should be an idiot, but the ones who have appear onQT generally are for whatever reason.

Unknown said...

I've always been of the purist (or snobbish if you prefer) view that Question time and its ilk should be the preserve of experts and politicians.

Experts in a field can add an extra dimension to the discussion of a topic and politicians are in something of a position to actually change the things they discuss. It's good for the public to be able to force them to elaborate and justify their positions once in a while.

Celebrities may have opinions on subjects but then so do I and so do all your contributors. being able to sing or act or whatever doesn't give their opinions any more worth than ours. If celebrities want to give the world their political opinions, they can post snarky comments on political blogs like everyone else.

JMB said...

There have been non-professional politician / journalist "personalities" on both Question Time and This Week who have been both very entertaining and very eloquent.

There have also been professional politicians and journalists who have been complete disasters.

So I think they should continue, probably the nearest that we will get to ordinary members of the public on these sort of programme.

Adrian said...

Far better to have Girls Aloud on QT (all five of them) than the usual bunch of slithery politicos and loudmouthed cleverclogses.

Whatever; who the guests should be on QT is NOT an important topic.

Anonymous said...

well well,with the socialists supposedly being the bastion of anti homophobia,I note the only snide nonconstructive comments comming from lefties.tut tut

Steve H said...

***Not many people can quote Bagehot or even know who the dude was.***

I've always thought that Bagehot was a pompous prick. Where the hell does he get off calling Toad a "rash and ill-advised animal"? Just cos he knew his father and his grandfather.

Anonymous said...

An interesting question.

I feel a list coming on. Is the expression, "Intelligent celebrity" an oxymoron? I don't think it is. Which intelligent celebrity would I nominate for a seat on question time?

How about Dr Brian May, astronomer and rock musician?


Dick the Prick said...

Dr Crippen. Brian May knocks about on the Sky at Night. There was a brilliant one last year when there was a meteor shower and Pat had the gig in his back garden (full BBQ action and a fair bit of booze too) with loads of celebs. They all turned into 8 year old kids.

Oooh - just remembered Simon Schama on US election night QT - I didn't know my telly could vomit aswell.

WV: enobuld - John Prescott in ermine?

The Grim Reaper said...

You're just jealous that you haven't been invited onto the programme! ;-)

Newmania said...

What bothers me about this is that you appear to suggest that people who studies "Politics” of all things have more to contribute to the running of this country than anyone else .I put it just above psychology as a soft option