Sir John Chilcot’s debut appearance on Radio 4 panel show Just a Minute has received a critical mauling, after he hesitated more than any other player in the programme’s history and caused Monday evening’s edition to last fourteen hours instead of the usual thirty minutes.
The former civil servant and independent inquiry chair appeared on the panel alongside series regulars Paul Merton, Sue Perkins and former foreign secretary Jack Straw. As usual, Chilcot was asked to speak for sixty seconds without repetition, deviation or hesitation, but after an initial burst of energy (on the topic ‘the terms of this inquiry’) he rapidly dried up and dragged the proceedings out far longer than anybody else could ever have anticipated.
‘I’ve never known such incompetence,’ said panel chairman Nicholas Parsons. ‘Paul Merton repeated the words ‘sexed up’ at least eight times but Chilcot just sat there, smiling benignly and doing absolutely nothing. It was infuriating.’
Controversially, Chilcot refused to press his buzzer even when Jack Straw was given the subject ‘Why the War in Iraq was Completely Justified’ and committed several deviations from the subject on the card. ‘He paused at least three times,’ said Merton. ‘You could have made a ham sandwich in those pauses. I came all the way from Great Portland Street for this.’
The appearance became Radio 4’s most complained about show of the year. ‘We had eight thousand people emailing in to demand progress before the show had even finished,’ Parsons said. ‘Of course we’ve given Sir John the chance to reply to each criticism individually, but that might take quite a while as well. Between you and me I think he’s just a bit, well, slow.’