Last night’s programme was set in Gateshead. Towards the end of the show, a woman asked the panel whether it was a good thing to have a North East Regional Government.
Everyone on the panel quoted just how successful Scottish and Welsh devolution had been – and how ‘sensible’ it would be "for the rest of the Country"
"Why shouldn’t the North East have its own Assembly" bleated Harriet Harman MP. Approving nods from Shami Chakrabarti the lady from ‘Liberty’ and improbable Scrabble hand ‘Lembit Opik MP. Former British ambassador to Washington, Sir Christopher Meyer and Scottish Conservative candidate Michael Gove were against the proposition.
Just then, a googly was bowled from Jonny Audience. A brave soul stood up and went completely off message. He wavered, a little unsure – as if he was about to declare to the entire world that he was a child molester or something…
But no, much worse – the BBC must have been wondering whether to pull the plug and go straight to the girl, the clown and the blackboard picture.
"What I want…… is an English Parliament. A Parliament for England. Why can't we have an English Parliament?"
Shocked, shocked silence.
The camera zoomed into the august body masquerading as ‘the panel’. Open mouths, slack jaws, gobs well and truly smacked. If Saddam Hussein wanted somewhere to hide his WMDs – then Harriet Harman’s mouth was just about big enough. All of them stared blankly into No-wheresville. Stepford Wives and Zombies of the Living Dead were suddenly sitting next to David Dimbleby.
Shami Chakrabarti suddenly came round, broke the spell and mumbled something about something or other – then Dimbleby hurriedly took the cue to move off onto another subject. Everyone looked relieved…. And a bit disgusted, as if they’d just stepped into something unpleasant and were looking for a clump of grass to take the smell away.
I salute the North Easterner – whoever you are. You are the English Parliament’s first TV martyr.