Comedians could teach our politicians a thing or two

COMMENT: Sell alcohol to kids and you will face consequences

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Shame on you, David. It’s hardly the most hard-hitting heckle known to man, but when an audience member shouted those four words at David Cameron recently, the prime minister responded in the way all politicians do. Petulantly.

‘Don’t spoil it, sir’ he replied, with more than a whiff of over-indulged five-year-old about him.

Standing there in his trade-mark pose of rolled-up shirt sleeves and suit jacket discarded, he had the nerve to say: ‘This is not about politics. This is about Britain.’

He’d been talking at a publicity event for the Olympics – and if the billions of pounds being spent on that particular sporting contest isn’t related to politics I don’t know what is.

I would have had more respect for the PM if he’d dealt with the criticism head-on rather than relying on an aide to usher the polite but aggrieved man out of the building.

In fact, the whole episode should prompt us all to ask: Why can’t our politicians handle hecklers?

Former prime minister Tony Blair has come a cropper a couple of times in recent months, first at the Leveson inquiry and later during a speech he was making in Hong Kong.

On both occasions he looked affronted and told the heckler that now wasn’t the time. But most people don’t get to shout things at Blair that often. You really can’t blame those who do from taking their chances when they can.

Obviously they can’t take the John Prescott approach and land a punch on those who get in the way. But an eloquent put-down would work wonders, rather than expecting the world to stop and listen politely every time one of them gets to their feet and decides to impart something on the rest of us.

Maybe comedian Jimmy Carr could get back in Cameron’s good books by giving him some tips on the best way to cope with a heckler.

We shouldn’t expect the main players to produce award-winning banter, but all of them could do with proving they can carry an argument. With an increasingly disenfranchised electorate to deal with, our politicians need to get used to being contradicted a bit more in public.