I have often dreamed of glory. Yesterday night I finally had an opportunity to win it.
I was set to ask a question in the BBC Regional Election debate in Birmingham Town Hall.
“If elected, how would you and your party treat the Christian community in the future?”
It was to be a moment of glory. I’d dreamed about such things. Along with the recurring ‘meeting someone famous and getting an interview with them’ dream, this one was that I would be questioning politicians with a killer question. I imagined my question would galvanise the election debate, making it more interesting, it would be speaking up for Christians in the UK, securing possible promises for the future and probably it would herald in a revival.
Before the debate I had some spare time so I went to Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery to look at my favourite piece of art there. It is a stained glass window depicting David playing the harp to a tormented King Saul. Above David a stained glass angel subdues a stained glass demon. ‘There are unseen forces at work today’ I thought to myself.
I was going to be a hero, like David. The politicians were like a three headed Goliath, like Cerberus at the gates of Hades, like a multi headed hydra, like…you get the idea. I had a sling and shot in the form of my question.
In percentage terms my motivation was say 50% fame and glory for me, 40% trying to impress my wife and 10% caring about any answer. But who cares about pure motives? People ask all kinds of questions for all sorts of reasons.
At this point I confess I read my horoscope (which I rarely do). It was in the Metro and read:
‘Cancer: If you want to know the answer to any questions at this time, then do yourself a favour and ask yourself, not others.’
So, after that, I felt more like King Saul consulting the witch of Endor just before a big battle.
In the town hall waiting room I mentally prepared myself for the attack. Finally we were led into the town hall proper, which had been converted into a makeshift studio by the BBC. The politicians strode forward to take their seats. Liam Byrne, I’m sure, whispered something about feeding me to his gods, but I may have imagined that. Labour’s Liam Byrne, Tory Caroline Spelman and Lib Dem John Hemming were perhaps not political giants, but that night, one way or the other, they were giants in my head.
The 100 strong crowd was warmed up with the immortal line:
“If anybody wants to spontaneously applaud please feel free to do so.”
Then filming began.
Nightmare scenario! The questioners had all been pre-selected by the BBC! The questions had all been verified and checked by them. The agenda had already been set. That question which I had emailed back to the BBC a couple of weeks before had already been thrown into some bin somewhere.
And so the debate began with discussion on whether the lib dems could now win the election following Nick Clegg’s TV debate success. Then came a question on local service manufacture. Then a question on immigration where a BNP spokesman ranted to us all, supported by his audience plant (or weed). Then the guy sitting next to me decided to heckle.
“Bigot! Nazi! Fascist!”
‘Could I heckle my question in now really quickly?’ I thought frantically.
But it was all over before I knew it.
In the end, thwarted at my crushed dream, I decided to go up and meet Nick Owen, the journalist/presenter who was hosting the evening.
“Hi, I’ll probably never meet you again. I’m a trained journalist but have kind of fallen out of the whole thing for a while – how did you get your big break in journalism?”
“I just kind of fell into it?” he answered.
I didn’t even ask him for an interview (someone is bound to be interested in an interview with Nick Owen). Two crushed dreams in one night.
So when I got back later that night and watched the debate on TV (it could never be live, of course), I saw myself for a brief moment in the audience. It was a strange kind of glory.
So here’s to all those questions that never get asked, the questions which are intimidated into silence by all kinds of giants. The questions which are talked over, unheard or simply unspoken. They are still there. And despite it all, no-one can stop the dreaming. Although they can crush them for a while.