Last Friday I took part in Radio 4's Any Questions. When I mentioned this in the constituency, there was a lot of interest in how the programme works, so I thought I'd tell readers about it.
I very nearly didn't make it at all. A car was sent to collect me from Arundel, but we were severely delayed by an accident on the way up to Bedfordshire. The programme is broadcast live, and I felt increasingly sick as I mused on how it would sound when listeners were told that the Conservative spokesman hadn't arrived.
I skidded into the school which was hosting the event with moments to spare. Everyone asks if the panellists get advance notice of the questions. I can confirm that they don't get the slightest hint of what's coming.
Obviously the questions usually reflect the events of the week, so I could guess what might come up, but there was still the worry of a surprise - not to mention how I'd respond to the inevitable light-hearted question that's thrown in.
There was a practice question just before the programme started. Vince Cable, the acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats, had admitted a desire to go on ‘Strictly Come Dancing'. Did we have any dark secrets? I said I was glad this question wasn't being broadcast, because I secretly wanted to go on the X-Factor. The presenter, Ed Stourton, said it wasn't being broadcast, but it was being recorded. I felt sick again.
Then the programme was live. The first question was about Gordon Brown's boycott of the summit attended by Robert Mugabe. I couldn't find the briefing note I had been given, and to my horror Ed Stourton came to me first. It was like living through a nightmare in front of the entire nation.
Why do politicians put themselves through such hell? You might well ask.