Sketch: How BBC audience turned on Corbyn

Prime Minister Theresa May taking part  in BBC1's Question Time Leaders Special presented by David Dimbleby from the campus of the University of York.
Prime Minister Theresa May taking part in BBC1's Question Time Leaders Special presented by David Dimbleby from the campus of the University of York.
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The setting was the Ron Cooke Hub at the University of York but it could have been Labour HQ. Except that Jeremy Corbyn is less popular there.

In what a football manager would have called a game of two halves, Theresa May walked on stage at the start of last night’s Question Time almost to the sound of her own footsteps. The audience applauded politely but coldly.

She was made to stand on a white spot as if she were a stand-up comic. As far as this audience was concerned, she was the warm-up act.

It was plainly Corbyn they had come to see. He entered to whoops and cheers. The evening was his for the taking - until the crowd turned.

It happened when he was asked about deploying nuclear weapons. Would he press the red button?

“There has to be no first use and there has to be a process of nuclear disarmament,” he said. “If we used it, millions would die.”

It cut no ice with the audience or with David Dimbleby. “That’s the ideal but what about the reality,” he wondered.

A man in a white shirt put it more bluntly. “You’d be too late. You’d have to do it first, mate.”

Trident was the elephant in the room. It’s supposed to be a deterrent but it deters no-one if they all know we won’t use it.

Theresa May avoided the elephant traps. Her reference to the “Marxist” shadow chancellor John McDonnell may have slipped by the crowd at York, but it will have hit home with the Tory faithful watching on TV.

“You called the election for your own political gain,” said someone in an ill-fitting T-shirt and an untidy beard, who was clearly angry about something. I’m guessing it was because his proper shirt hadn’t come back from the cleaners in time.

She was on the defensive - over social care, over Brexit, over spending cuts. But it was Corbyn who faced the 64 thousand dollar question. Was his manifesto a realistic wish list or just a letter to Santa Claus, an audience member asked. It demanded an answer but it got only rhetoric.