Westminster Times
Westminster Times (Reuters)

Forget Jerry Springer or Jeremy Kyle, there's a new reality show in town, in the unlikely shape of BBC's Question Time.

This week's lucky audience were given a dramatic taster of how this show might pan out in future when they cheered on a nasty little spat between education secretary and red mist sufferer Michael Gove and author and professional politician-baiter Will Self.

As far as we know neither of them lives in a trailer or has a pitbull for a pet, but we can work on that. What they do possess is the key ingredient for such a show - a willingness to get down and dirty.

To be fair, it was Self wot started it by suggesting that Gove was a master of the dark arts and was just the same as all politicians who were just the same as Damian McBride. "You are well known for it," he taunted.

Gove tried to remain cool but we could see the red tide starting to rise and finally he snapped: "And you are well known for playing to the gallery with populist position-taking... trying to make yourself popular with this audience so more people will buy your books".

But there was more when the debate moved on to terrorism and Self took the controversial view that he simply didn't believe much of the hype over the threat to the UK.

Gove turned on him, demanding to know whether he remembered 9/11 or 7/7 or had seen the intelligence material that set out the nature of the threat we all face.

When Self brushed it all aside with his characteristic sneer, Gove blew again. Turning to eyeball his opponent he declared: "Look, you don't know what you are talking about in this area. I think we have had enough, thank you."

At which point, as Self attempted a comeback and we were shouting "more" at out TV screens, Dimbleby stepped in to cool it all down by calling in the bouncers before they started throwing punches (OK, not that last bit).

Gove has form for this, of course. He ranted at his own backbenchers after they refused to back David Cameron in the Syria vote in the Commons and later launched a foul-mouthed tirade at Labour's Jim Murphy, later explaining that the Opposition's behaviour during the vote had "got to him".

Energetic support

Surprisingly, before his eruption, Gove had been all peace and love over Labour's Cameron-worrying policy on energy, telling the audience that Ed Miliband had been "absolutely right to draw attention" to the issue of escalating prices.

Continuing to drizzle warm words over Miliband, he added that the Labour leader had also been right to highlight the behaviour of the big six power companies which had "not been admirable".

Inevitably he went on to say that, while Miliband had correctly identified the problem, his solution was wrong. But there were none of the expected claims that Miliband's policy would see the lights going out across Britain or firms going bust.

Perhaps this is the way David Cameron will attempt to neutralise the issue during his conference next week so he too can appear to be on the side of the consumer.

If so, he will have to come up with an equally eye-catching alternative policy.

With friends like these

It is always your so-called friends who hurt you the most.

Asked about Miliband's big speech, former leader Tony Blair declared he was not going to comment on the policy but added: "It seemed to go down very well with people and was excellently delivered, I think".

Or, put another way, "I like the frame".

Meanwhile, Cameron's thorn, Boris Johnson, has told the FT that when he was watching the Syria debate he was wishing he had been back in the Commons. Really? No hints there then for any Tory constituency looking for a new candidate.

The plan seems not to have changed - Dave fails to win outright victory in 2015 so up steps Boris. Or Dave does win but then stands down before 2020, so up steps Boris.

Frying pans and fires

It's a great life being an ex-minister. You get your pick of juicy top jobs and enjoy a less combative lifestyle. So where did ex-Tory Angela Knight go wrong?

After losing her seat in 1997 she eventually ended up as chief executive and the public face of the British Bankers' Association. After five years defending our much-loved bankers, she jumped ship - straight into the job as chief executive of Energy UK.

Where next? Spokesman for the Baby Seal Clubbers Association?

Dave must agree with Ed

Another trap set for David Cameron by Ed Miliband was the suggestion that he was more than up for it should there be another round of TV debates during the election campaign.

"It's time for David Cameron to stop ducking and diving and agree to those TV debates, just like at the last general election, so the country can make its choice," he said.

Cameron has, so far, been resisting. Which is odd when you know the Tories believe a presidential-style campaign between Ed and Dave will favour their man.

Now that it is understood that there is no chance of Ukip's Nigel Farage being allowed to elbow his way into those debates, Cameron has no more excuses for holding back.

Could it be that, after Miliband's conference performance, the Tories are having second thoughts.

Sadly for those who though the debates distorted the entire campaign (thankfully we don't have a presidential system, although you could be forgiven for not spotting that) it appears there will indeed be a re-run in 2015.