Britain's Economy: Cameron and Clegg Face the Audience
|Date||23 June 2010|
|Location||BBC Television Centre, Shepherd's Bush, London|
|Participants||Nick Robinson (chair)
Britain's Economy: Cameron and Clegg Face the Audience is a special live political debate programme which was aired on BBC television on the evening of Wednesday 23 June 2010. The programme featured British Prime Minister David Cameron and his Deputy Nick Clegg facing questions from a specially selected audience following the previous day's emergency budget statement in which Chancellor George Osborne had announced £6 billion worth of cuts in Government spending. It was chaired by Nick Robinson and saw Cameron and Clegg facing questions on the Budget's potential impact. The occasion marked the first joint interview with Cameron and Clegg since forming a coalition government following the 2010 general election the previous month. The programme was aired on the BBC News channel at 7:00pm, then again on BBC Two at 11.25pm. It was also shown on BBC Parliament the following Sunday.
During the election campaign, the Conservatives had promised to hold an emergency budget within fifty days of coming to office. The budget, the first of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, was presented by Chancellor George Osborne at 12:30pm on 22 June and aimed to reduce the national debt accumulated by the Blair-Brown government. Highlights of the budget included a 2.5% increase in VAT to 20% and a large reduction in public spending. Concerns were raised about the impact the VAT raise would have on the less well off, and the effects which would be felt by those working in the public sector.
The live debate was scheduled for the following evening and would be the first time Cameron and Clegg had conducted a joint interview since forming the coalition government in May. The studio audience for the programme was made up of 20 individuals, who were specially selected to represent a cross-section of society. Among those present were businessmen, public sector workers, self-employed people and union representatives. A BBC spokeswoman told the Daily Mail that the selection process had been conducted in a similar way to that of Question Time, whereby people who apply to be in the audience are interviewed then chosen to ensure a mix of views are represented.
One of the main issues discussed was the planned cuts to public spending. David Cameron faced questions from public sector workers who were angry about a two year pay freeze for those earning more than £21,000 per year, arguing that it amounted to a real-terms cut in wages. Cameron admitted that this was effectively the case because of inflation. He also said that public sector pensions would be less generous in the future, but attempted to assuage concerns by saying that he intended to give up his own pension, worth £66,461 a year, once he left his job as Prime Minister.
Other highlights of the debate include Cameron saying that VAT would remain at 20% until at least 2014, while Nick Clegg said that the Government would shortly announce reforms to the benefits system meaning people who wished to work more hours would not be worse off by losing money overall as benefits are reduced.
The debate itself lasted for 30 minutes, after which BBC News presenters Nicholas Owen and Joanna Gosling presented a 20 minute segment analysing the debate and discussing some of the issues that had been raised. The programme was repeated on BBC Two later that evening, at 11:25pm, then again on BBC Parliament on Sunday 27 June.
A review of the programme gave it a lukewarm reception. Writing in the Daily Mail the day after the debate, Quentin Letts likened Cameron and Clegg's performance to an edition of Mr & Mrs and reflected: "If the programme told us anything it was that the country has almost as many opinions about the Budget as there are voters, but that no one is particularly thrilled about the state of the economy. We also learned that Messrs Clegg and Cameron can share a TV studio without talking over one another. They may not yet be sharing toothbrushes but they seem to rub along pretty well."
- Robinson, Nick (23 June 2010). "Cameron and Clegg face the audience". Nick Robinson's Newslog. BBC. Retrieved 13 August 2010.
- "George Osborne promises spending cuts plan next week". BBC News. 17 May 2010. Retrieved 13 August 2010.
- "Budget: Osborne's 'tough' package puts VAT up to 20%". BBC News. 22 June 2010. Retrieved 13 August 2010.
- "Cameron says 'I'm giving up my £66,000 pension' as he warns of reduction in civil service pensions". Mail Online (Associated Newspapers Ltd). 24 June 2010. Retrieved 13 August 2010.
- Letts, Quentin (24 June 2010). "'Mr and Mrs' Cameron and Clegg prove they can share a studio without talking over one another". Mail Online (Associated Newspapers Ltd). Retrieved 7 October 2010.