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QUESTION TIME COMETH

08-12-2008

St Johns Hagley

Radio 4’s Question Time is heading for David Nicholl’s local church later this week. The hunt is on for that elusive “perfect question”.

Well I felt Christmas came early when I got to interview David Cameron for Panorama in September, now I hear that Radio 4’s Any Questions is coming to my Church on Friday.

What is going on, will the Beeb be moving their Mailbox studios to Hagley next?

I have to admit that St John’s Church could do well as a good set for “The Vicar of Dibley” or “Four Weddings and Funeral” but surely this sleepy patch of middle England is not exactly a hot bed of political intrigue?

Nothing could be further from the truth, after all this part of Worcestershire was where some of the members of the Gunpowder Plot were caught. So the sense of anticipation amongst the congregation as to what to ask the panel is intense.

I have no idea whether I will get the chance to ask the panel a question, but it has got me thinking, what makes a good question?

Clearly something topical and snappy is essential. The whole Panorama experience made me think what separates a good from an excellent question. I do find asking politicians a question an interesting intellectual exercise - your job is to ask the question, their job (often) is try and avoid answering it.

The solution is to ask a ‘Yes/No’ question with the minimum wriggle room. Ideally if you can ask a question that involves humour all the better - at least you will have amused the audience even if they aren’t as passionate as you are about a particular subject.

The perfect question, however, manages all of the above points and also covers a number of different issues in one succinct question. After weeks of planning (literally), I think I made a good attempt at the perfect question with my Ronald McDonald question to David Cameron.

"Any Questions" is a different matter however, you only have one shot at a question with no killer second question to really put the politician on the spot.

So what question will I ask, if I get the opportunity? Now that would be telling, and I think the panel (Phil Woolas, Immigration Minister, Pauline Neville-Jones (Shadow Security Minister), David Laws, Fraser Nelson (Political Editor of the Spectator) need the first bite at that cherry, don’t you?

Then we can see the fireworks, if not the gunpowder, fly.

Radio 4’s “Any Questions” is broadcast at 8pm on Friday 12th December and then repeated on Saturday 13th December at 1.10pm.

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