John Lydon's 'spiteful' Question Time debut backfires on BBC

John Lydon and Louise Mensch on BBC Question Time

Sex Pistols frontman's persistent interruptions and bizarre contributions likened to a 'ranting drunk'

BY Ben Riley-Smith LAST UPDATED AT 12:45 ON Fri 6 Jul 2012

JOHN LYDON was greeted by rapturous applause from the Question Time audience as the show began last night. By the end, his comments were met with nothing but stony silence.

The appearance of Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten, on the BBC's flagship current affairs show last night was meant to be something of a coup for the Corporation. Casting the Sex Pistols frontman and famed anarchist in the 'unusual guest' slot of the five-man panel, it was hoped Lydon would provide a refreshing take on the week's hot topics.

But as the singer's contributions became increasingly bizarre, stifling debate and triggering long awkward pauses, viewers were left with a single overriding question: why, exactly, had the BBC put John Lydon on the show?

And it had all started so well. Answering an opening question on the politicisation of the banking investigation – two villains of the establishment Lydon had so viciously rallied against in his youth – the singer got the evening's first round of applause. Interrupting squabbling MPs Alan Johnson and Louise Mensch, he butted in: "This is why a parliamentary inquiry cannot be trusted".

But from there it was downhill. What started as entertaining enthusiasm to get his point across soon became an irritating check on other panellists' answers. Alan Johnson snapped at the singer for cutting him off. David Dimbleby ordered Lydon to wait his turn.

At one point, the exasperated host even gave up trying to stop one of Lydon's interruptions – a rare sight indeed, given Dimbleby's usual bullish putdowns of any politician who tries to do the same.

Twitter soon turned on Lydon. "Some things are just best left in the 70s," said Channel 4 anchor Krishnan Guru-Murthy. "Oh dear, John Lydon just decided to act out being a parody of himself," wrote The Guardian's Jonathan Haynes.

Independent columnist Owen Jones criticised Lydon's "ranting drunk at the pub routine” while BBC presenter John Wilson last night concluded: “Johnny shows true colours when cornered. Snarly, spiteful and nowhere near as clever as he thinks he is."

By the end, his erratic appearance and eccentric points – on the legalisation of drugs, he argued that "you can kill yourself with two tablespoons of table salt. Are you now going to ban table salt?" – had thoroughly worn out the crowd.

As Dimbleby announced their time was up and begun to wrap up, Lydon interrupted him one final time. "God bless ya," he blurted out. The audience responded with silence. · 

Disqus - noscript

Lydon, like Question Time itself, has out lived his period of 'fame' and should now disappear back into obscurity!
His brain obviously never survived his drug taking in the 70s!!

Lydon was never more than a smart self publicist...a very cynical, greedy and selfish man. Rotten to the core.

John Lydon put the politicians to shame. Just because middle class reporters employed by a right wing media don't like what he said, there are some working class folk who agree with him- and his tactics.

I'm a big fan of the pistols and PIL but realised way back in the 70s that Lydon was a big-mouthed ignoramus who thought he was a polemicist but was in fact an illiterate idiot, a monkey trained by McLaren to come across as an erudite anarchist as part of his fabricated Pistolology but in fact couldn't pronounce either word let alone know what they meant. Still like his music though.

Sorry John, but you didn't come across that well after the first 10 mins. Intimidating and talking over other panellists was NOT the tactic to use on that particular show. You came across as someone with poor listening skills. We all know you're a rebel and that you're generally against the system but, you haven't lived in the UK for years.

I did agree with some of your points of view, but not the drug use ones. Some people do get very mentally ill on drugs, even cannabis. I know a handful of people who have full blown schizophrenia fast tracked by smoking weed.... And one of your band members died from using class A drugs. At your age you should know better.

metal box..one of me all time faves..But,John..shut up,you're a yank now and the ol' brains a bit fuzzy.Came across as the neurotic that he surely is...oh,and get back with Keef and Wobble and make a decent record.Your after dinner speaking career shall flounder...gloriously...

Lydon's slurred speech and erratic personality serve to illustrate very clearly the lasting effects, on the mind and persona, of drug abuse; it is probable that he was not a very pleasant individual BEFORE he started to self-indulge in substance abuse - it is certain, now, that he is a verbose, bullying and egotistical twerp.

I bet you were into The Stranglers, or Dire Straits.

Dire Straits were excellent. Having Wikied Stranglers I see "Golden Brown" was theirs...that was very good. Were their others as good?

Lydon - as always - puts himself to shame. But what else could one expect of someone who proclaimed "I am an anarchist" while at the same time having no f**king idea what an anarchist WAS? The intent was to shock, by using a word that he had little understanding of the meaning of. "I am someone posing as a nihilist, but who likes the idea of making a lot of money" doesn't have quite the same shock value, does it?!

He lost contact with reality a long time ago. The combination of massive ego and poor self control is not an attractive one. When he attacked Duffy at the music awards 2008 (I suppose because she's a young talent who had just won an award and not really impressed by a hasbeen like Lydon shouting ''up the duffy'' and other witty heckles at her) throwing her against a wall and screaming 'c**t' at her - the excuse being some paranoia about people being out to get him cos he's soooooo important and famous..... Later he said he wouldn't apologise - it was a publcity stunt by her management! And some rubbish about barmaids all over the UK crying themselves to sleep over him and he thought she was one more! Cringeworthy. Lydon never had talent, was always ugly and thuggish and if he was ever any kind of role model so much the worse for the UK. He's a pathetic misogynist and should be allowed to fade into obscurity before he humiates himself any further.

Just put his mug on a poster and see who wants to do drugs.

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.