“Has Covid castrated Question Time?” asked broadcaster Iain Dale recently on Reaction. The passing reader might have assumed this was a response to b*****s spouted on a programme increasingly prone in recent years to descent into post-pub car park verbals.
In fact, Dale was lamenting the loss of the audience and the guests socially distanced like a Rat Pack Christmas special, each on a stool two yards apart and a special guest joining live by satellite link.
He’s right, of course. A bit like live sport, Question Time thrives on the roar of the grease paint and the smell of the crowd. Both have suffered in the same way from Covid-induced absence. Without the partisan swell at the home end, the stiffening of the sinews, the sheer emotion that the crowd brings, we are condemned to a sterile training ground exercise in which everyone runs through their pre-rehearsed moves, does a lot of stretching and trots off to the bio-bubble afterwards without even the courtesy of a post-match swiftie with the opposition.