British Democracy is a marvellous thing. Can you imagine other G7 heads of government being subjected to the water torture of a local radio phone-in?
Joe Biden, who was actually alive when they invented the telephone, certainly doesn’t have to take questions from rural Arkansas.
Nor does President Emmanuel Macron, from his gilded throne in the Elysee Palace, have to call round la France Profonde responding to queries about the rerouting of local buses.
Not so the Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Rishi Sunak’s day began by answering a statement from the mayor of Flitwick, a small town near Woburn Forest Centre Parcs, on the non-presence of local MP turned perma-incubus Nadine Dorries. Her Mid Bedfordshire constituency office is now, apparently, a dance studio.
The PM railroaded through his answers – somewhat ironically, given that not building a railway was one of the things he hoped to avoid answering questions on. “You’re her direct line manager!” spat the BBC Three Counties presenter.
Who needs Bagehot on the constitution when we can conceive of the great offices of state as if they were the management structure of a Halfords eh?
The PM, in the voice a CBBC presenter might use to teach children the alphabet, tried to explain that MPs were elected by their constituents and could only be removed by them, too.
His next point about – inevitably – potholes was cut off by a statement from a man who had lived in Wendover for 72 years, in tears about the damage to the area caused by HS2.
The PM, however, had a cunning plan and repeated his point about potholes again. After he’d finished, this centre point of Middle England radio played “Angry” by the Rolling Stones. Hmm.
Further North, things weren’t much calmer. A man on BBC Radio Manchester referred to the PM as “Ricky Sunak”, which was a good start.
“Are you scrapping the HS2 line between Birmingham and Manchester?” asked radio host Anna Jameson, after warning the PM that they were “straight talking people in the North”. If only this had been true of the MP for Richmond, Yorks.
“We’ve already got spades in the ground on Phase One!’ he non-answered after an audible dry swallow, before attempting to divert the question to road maintenance again. “We’re talking about trains not cars!” sighed the presenter, more in hope than expectation.
So the PM’s answers proved about as illuminating as a subterranean game of blind man’s bluff.
In fairness to him, it was very much a case of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t”.
On BBC Shropshire, the PM was pilloried for leaving rural communities behind. Meanwhile BBC Manchester replayed that infamous audio clip of him at a garden party in Tunbridge Wells, boasting about diverting money away from cities.
BBC Three Counties lamented the damage caused by HS2; BBC York the abandonment of its Northern leg. It’s often said that you can’t please all the people all of the time; but as Rishi Sunak proved today, sometimes you can annoy all of them.