Quentin Letts for the Daily Mail

Squabble on the fourth-form table? No, it was seven grown-up politicians – well, six plus chirpy little Tim Farron – taking part in BBC1‘s election debate show last night.

And then there was the audience. Worse than the mob at a Momentum rally! Where DID they get them? The Beeb insisted the audience members were representative. Bogeys to that. They were no more balanced than a gorilla on a unicycle.

Frantic clapping for the Left-wing contestants who demanded higher taxes. Boos and laughter were thrown at the Tories‘ Amber Rudd when she noted that the deficit was being reduced. But Jeremy Corbyn, evasive on immigration, was rewarded with whoops and wolf whistles. Welcome to the BBC!

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Amber Rudd was in such scary-librarian glasses, one kept waiting for her to say sternly 'there'll be a five pound overdue charge on that'

Amber Rudd was in such scary-librarian glasses, one kept waiting for her to say sternly 'there'll be a five pound overdue charge on that'

Amber Rudd was in such scary-librarian glasses, one kept waiting for her to say sternly ‘there’ll be a five pound overdue charge on that’

Ukip’s Paul Nuttall could barely secure even a few yards of open field and was greeted with audience groans when he criticised Islamic fundamentalism.

The Leftie panellists all started accusing him of fomenting hatred.

There might have been a different reaction if the debate’s venue had been in Manchester and not Volvo-socialist Cambridge.

Theresa May’s judgment has seldom looked sounder than when she decided to stay the heck away from this awful, bent, babyish custard-pie fight.

Mr Corbyn, who decided only yesterday to join the line-up (you have to pity the poor understudy – Diane Abbott? – who had done all the preparation), must have been inwardly aghast. There he stood in the middle of a demeaning brawl. It was like a penalty shoot-out where every player is trying to toe-bang the ball at the same time.

At one point, as they were discussing President Trump (more boos from the audience), Corbyn was reduced to yelling, off-camera: ‘Wot about air pollution?’ What about noise pollution, more like.

Ukip's Paul Nuttall could barely secure even a few yards of open field and was greeted with audience groans when he criticised Islamic fundamentalism

Ukip's Paul Nuttall could barely secure even a few yards of open field and was greeted with audience groans when he criticised Islamic fundamentalism

Ukip’s Paul Nuttall could barely secure even a few yards of open field and was greeted with audience groans when he criticised Islamic fundamentalism

Had I not been watching it for your delectation I would have turned off half way through. There were moments when all seven of them were shouting at the same time. Fingers are stabbed. Soundbites became inaudible.

Mr Corbyn and Scots Nationalist Angus Robertson found themselves sniping simultaneously at Miss Rudd. Two angry men shouting at a woman? Great look, guys.

It all went downhill after the opening credits. Caroline Lucas, the Greens’ co-leader (they find the concept of a single leader a bit unfair) said ‘fearless Green MPs would hold Labour’s feet to the fire’ in the next Government. If they have more than one.

Corbyn did some neck-tweaking, produced his ‘for the many not the few’ slogan, and kept producing a pub-bore’s ‘can I finish, please?’. Nuttall narrowed his gaze and spoke of ‘the Westminster elite’. Plaid Cymru’s Leanne Wood used her party’s name repeatedly, just in case we didn’t have a clue who she was.

Jeremy Corbyn, evasive on immigration, was rewarded with whoops and wolf whistles. Welcome to the BBC!

Jeremy Corbyn, evasive on immigration, was rewarded with whoops and wolf whistles. Welcome to the BBC!

Jeremy Corbyn, evasive on immigration, was rewarded with whoops and wolf whistles. Welcome to the BBC!

Miss Rudd was in such scary-librarian glasses, one kept waiting for her to say sternly ‘there’ll be a five pound overdue charge on that’. Instead she flourished a phrase that Mr Corbyn thought he had ‘a magic money tree’ and that the Tories were the only party prepared to tell the electorate harsh facts of economic life.

The show’s presenter, Mishal Husain, lost control as they all bellowed – Miss Rudd normally being the target of their abuse. Mrs May owes Amber a large gin and tonic, if not five.

Mr Corbyn had a lively riff about foodbanks. Mr Nuttall’s best moments were on immigration (Corbyn went a bit sotto voce on immigration, parking his head on one side of his neck). Mr Robertson spouted statistics like a cattle auctioneer. Ms Lucas got an almighty cheer from the audience for saying she would scrap our nuclear weapons.

The show's presenter, Mishal Husain, lost control as they all bellowed - Miss Rudd normally being the target of their abuse

The show's presenter, Mishal Husain, lost control as they all bellowed - Miss Rudd normally being the target of their abuse

The show’s presenter, Mishal Husain, lost control as they all bellowed – Miss Rudd normally being the target of their abuse

Thumbnail conclusions? Farron: jolly smart in his Child at C&A suit but it was long past his bedtime. The Plaid woman: wanted us to pay a divorce bill for Brexit but she could do as the mum in the next Bisto gravy ads. Scots Nat Robertson: first to start sweating. Ukip’s Nuttall: brave victim of professional fouls by the Lefties and the biased audience. 

Corbyn: regretted that ‘innocent lives had been lost’ in the recent Manchester bomb. Yes, that’s what happens in terrorism, Jeremy. Ask your IRA friends.

The equably Miss Rudd probably had the most telling remark of the night. As the prolonged shriekfest came (thank goodness) to a close, she said we had just heard the Babel chaos of what would happen if Corbyn and Co ever formed a coalition.

What a truly dreadful debate.

 

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