Do you love your country?
I've already compared doing BBC Question Time to doing an exam -- in the sense that you have to do the revision, and try to spot the questions (and the other night, I had got the PISA educational tables, Boris's outbursts, and the later retirement age).But the other side of the coin (again like an exam) is that there are all those questions you worked on, but never came up.
For me, there were a variety of these (nothing if not risk averse when it comes to exams). But one was the "Do you love your country?" question -- as asked by MPs to Alan Rusbridger. I had a sneaking feeling that this was a very plausible last quick question, for the three liner answer from each of the panel members. So what the hell would I say?
Now I don't want to give the impression that the QT preparation method is some version of rote learning. It wouldn't work anyway (as the basic questions always come in different formulations, which need different answers). All the same, you have to run through a few options.
On this one, I thought I saw the way forward. Yes, I LOVE my country. But I am not IN LOVE with my country.
I mean by that, I am not passionately obsessed with my country, so that it can in my eyes do know wrong (we all know that temporary feeling about an adored object).
Instead, I am in a long term relationship with my country. We've been together a long time now, and we know that relationships of that sort include disaggreements, and telling your partner where you think they have got it wrong. Patriotism, in other words, is grown up love.. not a crush.
I thought that something along those lines might work pretty well (which is why I'm sharing it!). But I didnt get a chance to use it as no such question emerged.
As it happened, it was lucky that the programme got shown at all, as just as the recording finished the death of Nelson Mandela was announced. Hugely sad, and era-closing event -- but as I have said before, global tragedies often mix awkwardly with personal self interest. I confess that when it looked as if the BBC might not show QT at all, one of my reactions was entirely (and unworthily) selfish despair. Oh help, I have just spent days prepping, travelling (which with trees on the line between Cambridge and London was not the simple sprint it usually is) and doing....and no one will ever see it?
In the end they made a sensible decision to move it to BBC2 and put it later in the evening (late enough so I could even watch when I got home). You can get the programme on iplayer.