So I filled in the application form online to be in the audience of Battle for Number 10, I never held out much hope of getting there as I imagined thousands had applied. To my surprise I got a call from Survation the next day. They explained they were working for Sky to ensure the audience was politically balanced. They asked a few question and said if I was selected I would be contacted.
To my delight I heard on Tuesday that I was to be in the audience.
After a long drive through jam after jam on the M6, M1 and M25 I arrived at my hotel. I had a message to contact Michael Savage the political correspondent of the Times. During our chat he told me that Survation had advised him that they had filtered out any ‘overtly political people’. I told him that I had a firm invite. That I had answered all questions honestly including my political affiliation. I suspected he had it wrong and it was simply that they might not be called to ask questions.
We had been told to arrive between 4pm and 7:30pm, I got a call at about three to ask what time I would be arriving and I confirmed about 6pm. I got there on the dot. We all had to check in our phones so no tweeting during the three hour wait. We were all given ticket numbers, we were told that there was a possibility there were not enough seats for everyone and that numbers would be called out, they would use a random process but would maintain political balance. I was a little cynical at this point given the call I had from The Times earlier.
The process defended into farce as they screwed up the numbering calling the same numbers several times and apparently expecting different people. Meanwhile they kept giving us little chats to pass the long wait. One of these caused a bit of a murmur as they said they hadn’t selected the questions yet, but we had witnessed people being told they would be called and being briefed. The guy from Exeter University sitting next to me (Number 86) told, me it was strange as they had called him at 8:00am to tell him he would be asking one.
After an hour of utter confusion they abandoned the number scheme and went with calling names out. Shortly before 9 pm twenty or so people were told there was no more space in the studio. Given they had know how many people were there since gates closed at 7:30pm people were pretty frustrated that they didn’t simply tell those that were not going to be called first so we could leave. The CEO of Survation and the Sky Producer came to address the angry group.
Then the lying started. First we were told by Survation CEO Damian Lyons Lowe that our invite clearly stated we may not be in the audience. By then we had got our phones back (although not for long as you will see) so were able to read the invite. People read it out loud, it did not say any such thing it said we may no be called to ask a question, there was no hint that we may not be in the audience of the show they had invited us to. Despite this Damian repeated we had been told several times. When once again someone read the email to him that said “You may not be called to ask a question” he replied “It’s the same thing”. This was getting people quite cross. At this point I decided to film events on my phone. Damian was unhappy at this saying I needed permission before I could film people. Oh the Irony, being told THAT at a Sky News event. What a pity they didn’t tell that to Martin Brunt before they door-stepped Brenda Leyland leading to her suicide. I told them so!
The farce continued you can watch as Damian tries to imply that our seats had been taken by security services at the request of the PM, back peddling swiftly when challenged. Then you can see him claim he never knew how many seats there would be, meanwhile the producer is saying the set was purpose built and is fixed.
I made a few calls this morning and one of Britain’s best-known political commentators sent me a message saying “Not for attribution to me but my sources say they didn't want a question time type politically motivated audience. They wanted ordinary voters.” Fine, so why all the deceit? Why invite us in the first place.
I am not surprised Survation polls are always so far away from the rest, they not only couldn’t manage a piss up in a brewery they also lack any integrity.