Any Questions in Margate
I have spent the last few days mugging up about world politics, and on lwhat's been going on in Kent. That's because I was down to do a (non-political) AnyQuestions in Margate with Clive Aslet, Richard Dannatt, and Rod Liddle. And you don't turn up to do AQ without trying to find out what's going on in the place you're visiting. It's partly because it would be insulting to the audience no to. It's partly because you dont want a question thrown at you that refers to a local issue you have never heard of. Try dealing with a discussion on A and E provision when you havent caught up with the fact that there are plans to close the local hospital.
Let me admit (to my shame) that I had never been to Margate before -- and that it is just unbelievably beautiful (if a trifle whiffy from the "ozone" at times). And the Turner Contemporary (where we were based) is a gallery to die for. We did our programme from a room with a bank of windows overlooking the sea, and I have to say that I have never discussed, or spoken, from a more amazingly scenic venue (Certainly intending to go back to Turner Contemporary. And I'll also be going to what looked like an excellent gallery shop?). The beach looked pretty good too.
Anyway I spent far too much time mugging up for the programme, as I always do.
The truth about AQ is that it is like taking an exam, with all the question spotting that involves. As for the local issues, I had thought the questioners might be keen on the controversy about the closure, and possible buy out, of the local airport. So I had done loads of work on Manston Airport (aka Kent International). And I could, utterly nerdishly, tell you the owners of the place over the last 20 years, the low cost airlines that had tried to make a profit there, and all to no avail. It has now shut, and there is an interesting rescue package afoot, and I had read the whole of the recent business report. The trouble was that, after all that reading, I couldnt work out which side I was on: was this an airport in a hopeless place that could never possibly be a commercial success? or was it a serious rival for Boris's island or Heathrow's third runway. So maybe it was good that there were no questions on the subject!
On the programme, we had a reasonably feisty time -- out of which I dont know how well I came (and to be honest I thought we were all a bit judiciously low key, even Rod). And I did get some of my current "points" across, including about the WW1 commemoration. I am dead keen on these and think that if we knew more about WW1 and its aftermath, we would understand the modern world better, and we certainly wouldn't blunder about the Middle East in quite the blithe way we sometimes seem to. But I would like our commemoration to be a bit more international -- including the experience of the Germans and beyond the Western Front. (Like: lets remember the 1.4 million Indians who served.. and maybe lets remember the enemy, many of whom were as conscripted as our "boys" were.. and maybe remember the war poets of other countries, who wrote some pretty damn good stuff too).
There had been a few attempts in the run up to parade this AQ as a grudge match between me and Rod Liddle. (Try looking at the comments under the line in that last link if you want an eye-opener). As it happened, we agree on quite a few things (like Ukraine) and disagree strongly on one or two others. There was indeed a question about migration. And the discussion boiled down to whether the wages of British born workers were decreased because of immigration, and whether "British" jobs were being lost because of it. The difficulty is that we each rely on reports that tend to reinforce our own points of view. Rod cites those that say that the "bottom" 20% of UK workers, in terms of earnings, are disadvantaged. I cite those that argue that (while accepting particular pockets of difficulty) UK workers are NOT disadvantaged (I got a lot out of this judicious stuff just out from the E Midlands.) And of course, impasse. If, however, I had got the time, I would have wanted to say that the factors affecting the chances of the "bottom" 20% were a lot more complicated that immigration...if it were monocausal, that would be simple.